Tucson Airport

Tucson Airport Guide

Tucson Airport is located in Southern Arizona, eight miles from the city of Tucson.  It is the second largest airport in Arizona, the largest one being Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, which serves the state’s capital city.

Tucson International Airport is owned by the city of Tucson, and it functions in both a civil and military capacity. First opened in 1919, the airport began to operate international flights in 1956.

It increased significantly in size over the following years, with the terminal being improved and enlarged, and more and more airlines operating out of there.  It now has three runways and there are seven airlines flying from Tucson International Airport to twenty-three locations in the US and Canada.

This may all be very interesting, in a general way.  But is there anything of more specific interest to pilots?  Yes, there is.

Tucson International Airport is fairly unusual for an international airport, in that it considers General Aviation – that is, private pilots and other types of non-airline flying – as being of great importance.

The airport states on its website that it is committed to serving General Aviation.  Indeed, over 40% of aircraft operations at Tucson International Airport fall into the General Aviation category.

So let’s take a closer look at Tucson International Airport, and see why you, as a pilot, might be interested in flying there.

Bottom Line Up Front

Tucson International Airport is situated in the south of Arizona, in an area interesting for pilots and their passengers to visit. The management of the airport is committed to serving the General Aviation community, and a large proportion of their flights fall into this category.

This means that it is a good place for private pilots to visit.  However, as it is situated at over 2000 feet and also surrounded by mountains, care must be taken when flying in, and it may not be suitable for low-hours pilots.

Inexperienced pilots would be advised to take a more experienced pilot with them when flying in for the first time.  Tucson International Airport could also be a good base for those wanting to learn to fly, as several flying schools are based there, as well as a popular flying club.

General Information About Tucson  International Airport

Tucson International Airport

Tucson International Airport is in the center of the Sonoran Desert in Southern Arizona, in an area of the country with year-round sunshine, making it the ideal place to enjoy outdoor leisure activities.  It is also close to the city of Tucson, and near to several interesting tourist locations, such as the Grand Canyon.

Although in controlled Class C airspace, the airport has less commercial airport traffic than many other international airports and is keen to promote General Aviation.  So it is likely to be a good place for private pilots to fly into.

However, if you have little experience with flying in controlled airspace, it could be a good idea to take an instructor or a more experienced pilot with you.  Care should also be taken of the surrounding terrain when flying in, as the airport is located at over 2000 feet, and is surrounded by mountains.

This means you could experience all the difficulties associated with mountain flying  So overall, it is better to have some experience before flying there.

Tucson International Airport has many facilities for General Aviation traffic, which is not the case at every airport. These include several fixed base operators which can provide ground handling after arrival, hangar space for general aviation aircraft, and a dedicated pilots’ lounge.

So overall the airport is committed to serving the General Aviation community and provides useful facilities for them.  It does not see private pilots as less important than its airline traffic.

Airlines Flying Out of Tucson International Airport

alaska airlines website

There are seven airlines that fly out of Tucson International Airport.  Here is a list of them:

  • Alaska Airlines.
  • American Airlines.
  • Delta Air Lines.
  • Flair Airlines.
  • Southwest Airlines.
  • Sun Country Airlines.
  • United Airlines.

These seven airlines fly to twenty-three different destinations.

Reasons For Flying To Tucson Airport

So why would you want to fly to Tucson International Airport? There could be a many reasons.  Of course, you may live nearly, or in Arizona at any rate, and this could mean that Tucson is relatively close.

You may have work in the area, and want to fly in for business reasons.  But there are some other reasons for choosing Tucson International Airport.

  • Firstly, as mentioned above, the airport is in an area known for its good weather, and for being a good base for outdoor activities.  Also, it is very close to the city of Tucson, which has a population of over one million, and as such, has all the facilities you would expect of a major city.  So there is plenty to do there if you want to explore a city, go out for good food, or visit theatres and cinemas.
  • Tucson International Airport could be a good base to explore the Grand Canyon, which is only about a six-hour drive to the north.  You might think that Phoenix International Airport would be closer, but being much larger and more crowded, flying in there as a private pilot would probably be much more difficult.
  • As a final sightseeing idea, why not use Tucson International Airport as a base to visit Mexico, which is only about an hour’s drive to the south?
  • If you are not already a qualified pilot but are wanting to learn to fly, Tucson International Airport could be an excellent place for flight training.  Many airports have only one flying school, but Tucson International Airport has several for you to choose between.  We will take a look at all of these later, in a separate section of this article.
  • Once you have your pilot’s license, there is a popular flying club at the airport, where you can hire aircraft and join in several social activities.

Basic Tucson International Airport Information For Pilots

tucson international airport runways

Airport Code

The IATA (International Air Transport Association) location identifier for Tucson International Airport is TUS, or Sometimes KTUS. As you probably know, this is used in aviation to identify a specific airport.  You may sometimes hear the airport referred to as TUS.


Tucson International Airport has three asphalt runways.  Here are their details:

  • 11L/29/R,  10,996 ft,  3352 m
  • 11R/29L, 8408 ft, 2563 m
  • 3/21,  7.000 ft,  2,134 m

Note that they are all quite long, so should present no takeoff or landing difficulties, even though the airfield is at a high altitude.

There are also three helipads at Tucson International Airport.


Tucson International Airport is situated at 2,643 ft / 806 m.  This is important!  It means you could have problems with density altitude, particularly in hot weather.

More specifically, you are likely to need more space for takeoff than you would at a lower airport.  If you are not familiar with flying at altitude, find out about it before you visit, and/or take someone more experienced with you.


Tucson International Airport is in controlled airspace and is designated as Class C.  This means that you need to liaise with Air Traffic Control before flying in, taxying, etc. If you are not experienced at flying in controlled airspace, it could be a good idea to take a more experienced pilot with you when flying in.

Radio Frequencies

Here are the most important radio frequencies, and included are all the ones you are likely to need if flying into Tucson International Airport.

  • UNICOM 122.95
  • ATIS 123.8, 279.65
  • TUCSON GROUND 124.4, 348.6
  • TUCSON TOWER 118.3, 257.8, 119.0
  • TUCSON APPROACH 119.4, 125.1, 128.5
  • TUCSON DEPARTURE 119.4, 125.1,

Handling Agents

The following FBOs (fixed base operators) all offer ground handling if required.  Contact any one of them if you need hangarage or other types of handling.

  • Atlantic Aviation
  • Bombardier Airspace
  • Executive Air
  • Million Air
  • Tucson Jet Centre

General Aviation At Tucson Airport

There are a few general things you need to know before flying into Tucson International Airport, that may not have been covered so far.

Firstly, it is always a good idea to phone the airport and check what you are required to do before arrival.  Now, according to the Tucson International Airport website, you may not need PPR (Prior Permission Required), since they state that PPR is required for “charter, sports teams, cargo, and military aircraft” due to limited aircraft parking.

Now, that sounds to me as though ordinary private pilots don’t need PPR.  But this is an International Airport, and in my experience, it is not a good idea to turn up at airports like this unannounced!  So if it were me, I would always check by phone, and just ask precisely what you need to do.

To be honest, I do this at any new airport – but most particularly an International Airport.  There is often more required that you need to know about, which is simply not mentioned on websites or flight guides.

Another thing the website states is that the airport does not offer any ground support services.  If you require any, they say, you should contact one of the FBOs listed above, and conveniently, the FBO will also submit a PPR form on your behalf.

So overall, if you require hangarage or any other ground services, going through an FBO could make things easier. It could smooth things over in any case.  And of course, if you are flying from overseas, this is a good idea.

Things To Do After Arrival At Tucson Airport


As touched on above, there is plenty to do after arrival at Tucson International Airport.  There are many facilities at the airport itself.  And if you want to go further afield, there are good transport links, and excellent public transport, and hiring a car for onward travel is also easy.  Here are some suggestions for what to do.

At The Airport

The passenger terminal at Tucson International Airport has a wide selection of shops and restaurants, as do most international airports. Their Arts and Culture program also has a permanent collection plus several other galleries.  There is also a pilots’ lounge where you can relax before making further plans.

In The Local Area

Here are some suggestions for what to do after landing at Tucson International Airport

  • You might want to start by visiting the Southern Arizona Heritage and Visitor Centre in downtown Tucson, just a few miles from the airport.  The Visitor Center has a theater a gallery, several exhibits, a gift shop, and other features designed to tell you about the area and what there is to see.
  • Tucson has been named a UNESCO City of Gastronomy. It is famous for Mexican food. So there are plenty of new culinary experiences to be had here.
  • The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is an exhibition featuring the fauna and flora of the Sonoran Desert and surrounding area.
  • Old Tucson is worth visiting and offers examples of the old West.
  • The University of Arizona is highly rated and might make for an interesting visit.
  • If outdoor activities are more your thing, this is the right area for you.  Tucson is surrounded by mountains and makes an ideal base for hiking, biking, golf, climbing, or most other outdoor activities.
  • Finally, as already stated, the Grand Canyon is only about a six-hour drive away.  If you have the time, why not use this opportunity to visit this spectacular feature, especially if you haven’t already been there?

Flight Training At Tucson Airport

There are several flying schools at Tucson International Airport.  If you are thinking of learning to fly, or indeed if you want to get some more advanced pilot training, it could be good to visit them.  They are all different, with varying emphases and different types of pilot training.

Arizona Aerotech

This flight school offers all types of pilot training, from the Private Pilot’s License right through to airline training. They have both Cessna and Piper Aircraft, so you could have a wide choice of planes on which to learn.  Overall, it looks like a good place to do any type of flight training.

ATP Flight School

ATP is well known, and this flight school is part of a large organization that has 76 flight schools right across the US.  ATP  is very highly thought of but tends to be geared more towards training for the airlines rather than for those who just want to get a Private Pilot’s License.

Flight Safety International

This organization describes itself as a learning center offering initial and recurrent training for both pilots and maintenance technicians, and it has several aircraft simulators.  It could be worth looking into to find out more details.

Accelerated IFR

This flight school uses mainly pilot-owned aircraft, although it claims to have rental aircraft too.  The school receives excellent reviews from former students so it could be worth checking them out.

Alpha Air

This is Tucson International Airport’s Flying Club.  But they also offer flight training – see below for details. You might like the idea of learning to fly at a club which you can then join when you have your pilot’s license.

Flying Club at Tucson International Airport

As mentioned above, there is a flying club at Tucson International Airport – Alpha Air.  They offer plane rentals, and also flying training, from private pilot training right through to commercial training and instructor ratings.

Founded in 1980 by two pilots, the club has become the base for the local Tucson flying community.  They operate mainly Cessna 150s and 172s for instruction, but can also instruct on a customer’s aircraft.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: I would like to fly to Tucson International Airport and stay in the area. Is there accommodation nearby?

Answer: The city of Tucson, which is only a few miles away, has many hotels and other accommodations, like most large cities.  And if you want to stay close to the airport, there are seventeen places to stay within only two miles of the airport.  So you should have no problem.

Question: Can I fly a drone near Tucson International Airport?

Answer: the airport management supports drone flights, but states that there are many areas near the airport where it is not safe to fly them, owing to low-flying manned aircraft.  If you want to fly a drone near the airport, you need to receive official authorization, and then contact Airside Operations to arrange your flight.

Question: Which of the Airport’s flying schools is the best?

Answer:  All of them are well-liked, and there is not one that stands out as better than the others.  It may depend on what sort of flying training you want to do, and simply on your personal preferences.
Your best bet may be to visit all of them, and perhaps even take an introductory lesson or two, to see what you think of them.
And of course, if you don’t like the flying school where you start your training, you can always change to a different flying school, even part way through your Private Pilot course.


Hopefully, this article has given you a good idea of what Tucson International Airport is like, to fly into, for flight training, and as a base for sightseeing and leisure activities.  If it has whetted your appetite, I would suggest you arrange to fly to the airport and see what you think of it.

And finally, I  wish you blue skies and tailwinds on your trip to Tucson International Airport.


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