Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Big South Fork Airpark

We came in search of an ideal airplane for the residential airpark lifestyle and found an ideal residential airpark

Jeff Laughrey, a software consultant from Hixon, Tenn., hadn't planned on buying a home site when he first flew down with his 10-year-old daughter Alex to experience one of BSFA's Adventure Weekends. "I came just to do the fun four-wheeling thing and look at the property, and I said, 'This place is cool, these people are cool, and I've got an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of something. I asked what kind of deal they could offer, and they threw out a number that I thought was reasonable." (Lots start at about $90,000.)

The land BSFA occupies is part of a vast tract long owned by the Swain family, who has used it for logging and timbering, previously donating some of it for the airport's expansion. In 2006, eager to develop a portion of the land for housing—but concerned about its desirability given its proximity to the airport—they approached Armstrong and partners Gary Gallagher and Tom Donald, who they knew were passionate about aviation. "We know a lot of airplane people who would love to live near an airport," Armstrong and his partners told the Swains. The following year, the developers designed the property and began installing roads and utilities, and they began selling lots in '08. Thus far, about $7 to $8 million has been spent on the infrastructure, Armstrong estimates. Among those who have since come to check out the development: the FAA. BSFA was one of the locations the agency inspected before approving grandfathered through-the-fence airport access arrangements for residential airparks.

An interesting fillip: Because of the rolling topography, few hangar home sites are available; most lots are set on hillsides and airplanes are kept in a row of hangars just outside the airport gate, an arrangement many property owners seem to prefer. There's currently one long row of hangars, now housing an eclectic fleet ranging from a J-3 Cub and experimental Velocity to Piper Matrix and a King Air C-90.
Our vision has always been in developing an environment where you can relax in the wilderness, enjoy nature and outdoor activities, and have access to the world-class airport.
"I never was one to want an airplane sitting next to my house all the time," said Lamar Parker, an ob-gyn, from Winston-Salem, N.C. He and his wife Marilyn fly in regularly in their twin-engine Cessna 414. "I can walk to my house from (the) hangar," Parker said.

Becky Burris, considering the aesthetics of airpark homes, noted, "It's kind of hard to blend a big hangar to the house."

BSFA's houses are big but not ostentatious, and very well constructed, built of wood, stone and other natural materials. Buyers are free to choose the contractor to build their homes, but so far, the majority of property owners have chosen the BSFA team to handle construction.


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