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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Heading For Home
Leeward Air Ranch in Ocala, Fla., is a 500-acre gated airpark that attracts aficionados of warbirds and vintage aircraft.
At the booth for Cannon Creek Airpark in Lake City, Fla., Austin Sessions, broker and director of development, had his shoes off, epitomizing the development’s laid-back lifestyle. “This place is for the middle-class, normal pilot,” he said. The son of the developer, Sessions helped build 30-year-old Cannon Creek and recently moved to the quiet, bucolic airpark. “I wouldn’t change it for the world,” said Sessions, who was initially concerned he’d miss the raucous wilds of Orlando. “I thought I’d go nuts.” But he enjoys the nearby river and easy access to his Cessna 150. “I fly every day,” Sessions said. Cannon Creek holds a fly-in breakfast every Saturday. Such events, hosted by many fly-in communities, provide a great opportunity for people interested in checking out an airpark development.

Aficionados of particular aircraft types can often find properties well suited to their interests. The Leeward Air Ranch in Ocala, Fla., has long been known as a warbird haven. Fans of the Golden Age of Aviation can settle at the Grass Roots Airpark in Mascotte, Fla., which is designed to resemble a 1930s-era aerodrome. And, in addition to its paved runway, the Fort Atkinson Plantation Airpark in Day, Fla., offers a seaplane lane and adjacent homes for seaplane pilots.

Florida is also home to the largest and probably best-known residential airpark, Spruce Creek Fly-In, near Daytona Beach. With a golf course, clubhouse and other amenities, Spruce Creek considers itself not so much a residential airpark as a residential country-club fly-in community. And after some 30 years, Spruce Creek has learned a thing or two about what makes a resident and an airpark a good fit.

Heading For Home
America’s largest residential airpark, Spruce Creek Fly-In, is near Daytona Beach, Fla. Along with the ability to live beside your airplane, the residential “country-club fly-in community” offers a golf course and other amenities.
“There are two key questions for prospective residents to ask,” said Maureen Reynolds, a broker with Spruce Creek Fly-In Realty. “One, for the nonpilot: What am I going to do if I don’t fly? And two, for the pilot: What am I, as a pilot, going to do if I can’t fly?” In other words, make sure the community meets all your needs—schools, shopping, cultural activities—besides just accommodating your airplane. At Sun ’n Fun, advertised residences at Spruce Creek ranged from a villa under $170,000 to an estate priced at nearly $6 million.

Several newer residential airparks are tapping into this upper end of the market. Perfect Landing AirPark, a waterfront development near Branson, Mo., offers residents deluxe homesites and ancillary services, including security packages and lifetime medical care programs. Access to facilities in the gated community will be controlled by biometric fingerprint scans.

“Personally, my dream is to get in my plane, fly to the airpark, get in a boat and be on the lake,” said Jim Canfield. The former Navy A-6 Intruder pilot now flies a Cessna Cutlass RG and is a partner in the development. Residents will have access to a paved 5,000-foot runway at the adjacent Someday Ranch resort. Complete equestrian facilities will also be available. The aviation/equestrian pairing appears to be gaining traction among upscale developers.

Heading For Home“The husband likes to fly, the wife has horses,” said Chris Donald of this population of potential buyers. Donald’s father is on the development team at one-year-old Big South Fork Airpark in Oneida, Tenn., adjacent to the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. “We wanted to start an aviation-based community with equestrian facilities for the outdoor type who likes airplanes and horses,” explained Donald, who flies a King Air, a Velocity and an RV-8A.

While almost all these communities were built primarily to attract airplane lovers, sometimes nonflying residents become attracted to the airplanes. “We see a lot of people take up flying as a new interest when they come to a place like this,” said Randy Banks, president and CEO of Mountain Air Country Club, a well-established upscale community in Burnsville, N.C. “They’ll buy a fairly high-performance plane—a Cirrus or Diamond—and then learn how to fly.”




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