Pilot Journal
Thursday, May 29, 2008

On A Heading For Home


Finding a residential airpark for you and your plane


Heading For HomeI live in downtown Manhattan and like the great majority of New Yorkers, have no car. The commute to my airplane in Caldwell, N.J., is a much bigger undertaking than a flight from Caldwell to Sun ’n Fun in Lakeland, Fla., where I’m investigating a possible solution to my dilemma: A home on a residential airpark, maybe a property with a private runway or some other cohabitation arrangement with my airplane. Apparently, I’m not alone in my search.
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Courtesy of Mountain Air
I live in downtown Manhattan and like the great majority of New Yorkers, have no car. The commute to my airplane in Caldwell, N.J., is a much bigger undertaking than a flight from Caldwell to Sun ’n Fun in Lakeland, Fla., where I’m investigating a possible solution to my dilemma: A home on a residential airpark, maybe a property with a private runway or some other cohabitation arrangement with my airplane. Apparently, I’m not alone in my search.

“Over the last 10 years, the lifestyle has become more and more popular, and we’re seeing more residential airparks develop around the country,” said Kathie Beaty, owner of Aviation Homes & Land in Lakeland, at her outdoor booth. The canvas walls are festooned with pictures of airpark homes and aerial views of airpark developments. “And it’s not just the baby boomers,” Beaty said of those buying into the dream. “A lot of young families are now choosing this way of life.”

“We’ve definitely seen an uptick, especially since 9/11,” said Dave Sclair of Living With Your Plane, cited by many as the authoritative source for residential airpark information. He began cataloguing airparks after moving to one in the 1980s. “We’ve had an increase in inquiries from people interested in moving to one and people interested in creating one,” he commented.

Heading For Home
A Cirrus SR22 on the runway at Mountain Air Country Club, a well-established, upscale airpark in Burnsville, N.C. The mountaintop setting and sense of community make it an especially appealing place for aviators to live with their aircraft.
More than 600 residential airparks are listed in Living With Your Plane’s registry, a score of them in the planning or construction phase. Sclair believes that’s likely an undercount: “Somewhere between 600 and 800 is probably the magic number.”

A stroll around Sun ’n Fun’s exhibit halls and outdoor displays (and phone conversations with airpark residents and developers) reveals no shortage of choices in location, type of community or cost of entry. Airparks aren’t just in the Sun Belt anymore; they can be found in every state, with the exception of Rhode Island and Hawaii.

“If you can move anywhere, there are about as many ways to live with your plane as without it,” said Beaty. She and her husband live on a cattle ranch with a runway, which they purchased to base their Glastar kitplane.

And the dream is within reach of aviators on just about any budget. A lot on a residential airpark can cost as little as $15,000 per acre. For those with bigger dreams, turnkey hangar homes at some developments can run into the millions.

Aero Estates Airpark on Lake Palestine in East Texas provides water access for seaplane and boating enthusiasts. “Our niche is the dream of living with your plane for the average middle-income aviator or sport enthusiast,” said developer and Aero Estates owner Robert Huber. At Sun ’n Fun, he was offering half-acre lots at just under $30,000. To keep costs down, Huber scrapped plans to build a paved runway in favor of a lighted and easily maintained Bermuda grass airstrip.




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