Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Life Without An Address

Living the dreams that aviation makes possible

Recently, I asked the owner of an airplane for his physical address, and he said he didn't have one. He lived on a remote strip in the mountains and had only GPS coordinates. And suddenly, I was jealous. He was living my dream and that of many others in aviation.

Think of the concept: He was remote enough that, essentially, he lived in a world of his own making. He was definitely not a social dropout nor a doomsday prepper. In fact, he had retired as an executive from a Fortune 100 company. But, he had made a conscious decision to remove himself from the complexities of urban/suburban, or even rural, life. He had moved to an island of sorts that was bordered by miles of wilderness, and he owned about 1,000 acres of it, although that number wasn't important.

Given the extent of the surrounding wilderness, if it had been 10 acres, it would have been plenty. What was important was that the nearest regular road was many miles away and that one was 30 miles of narrow dirt that connected to the nearest paved road. To find his place, you drove to the end of the Earth, then kept going and had to be prepared to either walk or four-wheel the rest of it. His little slice of utopia was made possible only because of his airplanes. Two of them.

He had been planning his escape for some time before retirement, but I'm not sure which came first: his airplanes or his location. Either way, from the get-go, he knew a runway was going to be part of his new life equation. Having a two-way access to the world via airplane was central to everything.

We talked about it, and he shared some of his thoughts and plans. First and foremost, he didn't want to be more than about 20 minutes from a loaf of bread. Meaning, he wanted ready access to enough civilization that his medical and cultural needs could be attended to. While he wanted his own slice of wilderness, he didn't want he and his wife to be stuck too far out in the boonies should they get the urge to go to a decent restaurant. Or shop for the latest in boots or chainsaws.

Let's see: 20 minutes. His two airplanes were a Husky and an "interesting" Aztec. Interesting, because he had everything mechanical completely restored but had only a basic panel and almost no interior. The backseat was missing, as was the aft bulkhead. The cavernous space behind the front seat was lined with powder-coated aluminum sheet. Cargo hooks protruded about every foot or so down both sides of the floor, and the right door had quick-release hinges so he could remove the door and slide half sheets of plywood, etc., down into the airplane. He also had a couple of big fuel cells that would let him ferry fuel into his own little fuel farm. Purposely given an oxidized paint job, the Aztec was his go-to-town-and-pick-'em-up truck.

So, how far would his 20-minutes-to-a-loaf-of-bread criteria let him move into the countryside?


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