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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And a residential airpark’s runway may increasingly be seen by nonpilots as an asset in accessing a property they find appealing. “You don’t necessarily need to be a pilot to benefit from general aviation,” Banks noted. “With air taxis and fractional programs, a lot of nonpilots are taking advantage of general aviation.”

Meanwhile, here at Sun ’n Fun, there’s room for some of the old-fashioned huckstering that has long characterized real-estate sales. Heaven’s Landing, an upscale development in Clayton, Ga., created by former race-car driver Mike Ciochetti Jr., has apple-cheeked girls in angel costumes hovering around its booth to draw attention.

Virtually all developers of properties, new and old, acknowledge that the current real-estate crunch has affected prices and sales, though not as much as in the nonaviation real-estate market. This could be an advantageous time to shop. But people considering a property on a residential airpark need to do their homework.

Heading For Home
Costa Rica’s first airpark is being developed in Samara, Guanacaste, along the Buena Vista River.
“The biggest thing is making sure the covenants, conditions and restrictions [CC&Rs] are prepared well, and the development meets your lifestyle and requirements,” said Sclair. “If you fly a jet or want to keep a horse in your backyard, you better make sure there’s no prohibition in the CC&Rs. Whatever your lifestyle is, you’ve got to make sure those covenants allow it. If they don’t, you won’t be happy.”

Perhaps the most important issue involves determining who owns the runway and ensuring that it will be maintained in perpetuity with unencumbered access for residents. “The deed restrictions are terribly, terribly important,” said Sclair, “and people just don’t pay attention to them.”

Despite all the recommendations from experts about due diligence, sometimes the magic of the moment can overcome even the most prudent potential buyer. “It was love at first sight,” said Dr. Bill Marshall of Fort Walton Beach, Fla., who has owned a vacation home at Mountain Air Country Club since the early 1990s. “We made the purchase on our first trip up there, and I’m not an impulsive buyer. I like to analyze and check things out. I wasn’t really looking for a second home,” the Malibu Mirage owner admitted. But the beauty of the mountaintop setting and the camaraderie of the community won him over, and he’s never regretted his decision. Today Dr. Marshall is president of the 100-plus member Mountain Air Pilots Association.

Considering that the sanctity of the runway is a primary concern, “through-the-fence” developments, which offer properties access rights to a publicly owned airport, provide an appeal all their own. SilverWing at Sandpoint, a new development adjacent to the municipal airport in Sandpoint, Idaho, is taking advantage of both this appeal and the demand for high-end, turnkey residential airpark properties. “The vast majority of airparks are on private little grass strips, usually out in the middle of nowhere,” said John McKeown, a partner in the development. “We wanted to find something in an incredible location, on a full-length FAA airport.”

Hangar homes at SilverWing will be priced from $500,000 to $2.5 million. McKeown said that a backcountry flying school will be on the property, as will outfitters who can offer residents and visitors a host of recreational options. “We wanted to make this a destination resort rather than just lots,” said McKeown, who flies a Diamond Twin Star. “It’s not a fly-in community, it’s an aviators’ community.”

I’m back home, loaded down with brochures, DVDs, floor plans of hangar homes and site plans of developments. Just as I begin to wrap my mind around the options, I get an e-mail that sends me back to square one. “In the States, pilots have had easy access to airpark living,” writes Pieter Monsma. “But in Costa Rica, there’s no possibility to land in your backyard. Till now. At this moment, we’re working on the first and only airpark in Costa Rica…”

For More Information
General Resources
Aviation Homes & Land, Lakeland, Fla.: www.aviationhomes.com
Living With Your Plane: www.livingwithyourplane.com
Florida Airparks
Cannon Creek Airpark, Lake City: www.ccairpark.com
Fort Atkinson Plantation Airpark, Day: www.fapairpark.com
Grass Roots Airpark, Mascotte: www.grassrootsairpark.org
Leeward Air Ranch, Ocala: www.leewardairranch.com
Spruce Creek Fly-In, Daytona Beach: www.fly-in.com
Other Locations
Aero Estates Airpark, Frankston, Texas: www.aeroestatesairpark.com
AirPark Costa Rica: www.airpark-costarica.com
Big South Fork Airpark, Oneida, Tenn.: www.bsfairpark.com
Holley Mountain Airpark, Clinton, Ark.: www.holleymountainairpark.com
Heaven’s Landing, Clayton, Ga.: www.heavenslanding.com
Perfect Landing AirPark, Cedarcreek, Mo.: www.perfectlandingairpark.com
Mountain Air Country Club, Burnsville, N.C.: www.mountainaircc.com
SilverWing at Sandpoint, Sandpoint, Idaho: www.silverwingatsandpoint.com
Sunriver Resort, Sunriver, Ore.: www.sunriver-resort.com


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