SLC international airport is a main hub of the western states and can be a very busy place. However, GA operations are actually pretty simple...as long as you are prepared.
The airport is located just South of the Great Salt Lake, with the Wastach Mountains to the East and the Oquirrh Mountains to the Southwest.
The layout of the airport promotes a separation of General Aviation and Commercial traffic...with the big jets on the West side...and GA to the East, most often using runway 17/35. On the East ramp there are three FBOs to choose from: Million Air, Hudson General and the Salt Lake Jet Center. All can be reached on the multicom frequency of 122.95.
The SLC VFR Terminal area chart has specified procedures for VFR arrivals and departures to and from the West...such as the Barn Transition and the I-80 transition. A full description and depiction is printed on the chart...so read it and become familiar with it so you won't be caught off-guard.
For North and South VFR operations, it would be VERY helpful to know where Interstate 15 is in relation to the airport. Most of the time, controllers will give you a clearance to remain over or East of the I-15 Freeway, primarily to keep you separated from the heavy Jet traffic.
Flights to and from the East are made a little more challenging because of: THE WASATCH MOUNTAINS! Some of the peaks rise to more than 11,000 feet msl, so a little planning is in order here. If you're coming directly from the East, try following I-80 through Parley's Canyon, or cut through Emigration Canyon for a more direct route to downtown Salt Lake. Remember to give yourself plenty of clearance when crossing the mountain ridges, especially if there is a little wind. If there is a lot of wind, you might want to think twice about flying in the mountains...or better yet, take a different route over less treacherous terrain. It might take you a little longer, but that extra time will be time well spent in the name of safety.
If you want to avoid the heavier traffic of Salt Lake International altogether, there are at least a half-dozen alternate airports within a 40-mile radius of Salt Lake.
Salt Lake Municipal Airport #2
The locals just call it Airport #2. It's a non-tower-controlled airport, but gets plenty of traffic due to it's prime location in the middle of the Salt Lake Valley. Just one runway in use here: 16/34...with right traffic for runway 16...to keep you farther away from the surface-based class Bravo airspace---and the associated jet traffic. Million Air is the FBO here, with 100LL and JetA fuel available.
The airport can be tricky to spot if you are unfamiliar to the area, even at night since I have found that the beacon seems unusually dim. (Lots of residential development nearby and they probably don't want to mess with the neighbors) This is where a GPS unit would come in handy. Speaking of GPS, one GPS approach is the only charted instrument approach into Salt Lake #2, and at peak times in actual conditions (from what I have heard) it is very difficult to get clearance for that approach due to the volume of jet traffic going into SLC. Just look at the chart and it's easy to see where terrain and traffic conflicts make #2 airport a little more difficult for operations in actual IFR conditions.
Just to the South of the Salt Lake Valley, in Utah County, there are three public-use airports: Spanish Fork, Provo, and a new addition: Eagle Mountain.
Spanish Fork is located just South of Utah Lake. It's a small, but friendly place that doesn't get as much traffic as some of the surrounding airports. Spanish Fork Flying are the folks you need to talk to about tie downs. Fuel is self-service...100LL.
About 5 miles to the North of Spanish Fork, and sitting right on the edge of Utah Lake, Provo is one of Utah's busiest General Aviation airports. It's also home to the Utah Valley State College aviation department, so there is a lot of training going on here.
If the weather is less-than-ideal, Provo does have several instrument approaches available, including an ILS approach. Once you're on the ground, there are two FBOs to help you out : Advantage Aviation and Million Air.
Utah's newest general aviation airport, Eagle Mountain, is located just 42 miles from downtown Salt Lake City, and just 3.5 miles West of the Fairfield VOR. It was officially opened to public use in the summer of 2000. The airfield also shares it's name with a famous Utahan astronaut and State Senator: Jake Garn.
One valley over from Salt Lake---to the West---we find Bolinder Field/Tooele Valley Airport. Tooele, pronounced Too-ill-uh, is used extensively as a training airport and as a reliever for general aviation flights to and from the Salt Lake Valley. This is another one that is somewhat tricky to spot from afar, but there is an NDB located on the field to help point you in the right direction.(NDBs are somewhat rare in Utah) During the Spring of 2001, the airport got a facelift with a re-paving project and a new FBO building.
Just North of Hill Air Force Base we find the second busiest airport in the state of Utah. Ogden is also home to an air traffic control tower, one of only three in the entire state! (OGD, SLC and HIF). The airspace is class D (right next to the Hill Air Force Base class D) with overlying class B associated with Salt Lake. The stretch between Salt Lake and Ogden can get quite busy, so it's advisable to stay with approach for traffic advisories if you can.