Residential Airparks

On May 1, 2012 · 6 Comments

I didn’t know at the time that it was called a "residential airpark" or a "fly-in community." I just thought it was pretty cool that people could own an airplane, keep it in a garage attached to their homes, and roll it directly onto an active runway mere steps away. I noticed the phenomenon a number of years ago in a neighborhood along Mississippi’s Gulf Coast close to where members of my family lived.

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The Diamondhead Airport had a residential component — still has it, I guess — although most of it was totally devastated by Hurricane Katrina (my family didn’t completely escape either). Some of the destruction can still be seen in the Google Satellite image, above. Nonetheless I noticed houses being rebuilt on those same pads when I was down there about a year ago, although I guess I’m going down a tangent and starting to editorialize. The opportunity to fly-in and fly-out directly from one’s own driveway must be worth the probability that a home will be flattened by a thirty-foot storm surge someday again in the future.

I couldn’t find a definitive history of residential airparks. The best I could determine was that they seemed to have begun or at least gained their initial popularity along an arc of the southeastern United States; from Texas and along the Gulf Coast states, around Florida and then up the Atlantic coastline to somewhere around South Carolina. California and Arizona were other popular locations.

It’s not a demographic that’s been studied intensely although anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that residential airparks tend to attract people in their 50’s and 60’s with high disposable incomes, who desire the security of a gated community, seek mild climates and have sufficient time available to maintain and fly their own airplanes. If you’re thinking wealthy snowbird retirees then you’re in the right ballpark. That’s who these communities target.

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John Travolta is probably the most famous homeowner in a residential airpark. He lives in a mansion at Jumbolair Aviation Estates in Ocala, Florida. It’s co-located with Greystone Airport with a runway long enough to accommodate Mr. Travolta’s private Boeing 707.

Residential Airparks are slowly becoming a wider-spread phenomenon.

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Okotoks Air Ranch is a Canadian example located in Alberta: "…perfect for those who are fascinated by aviation as well as those who want the true ‘fly-in fly-out’ lifestyle. The runway places you on your doorstep from the moment you touch down." It’s located a bit south of Calgary with a Rocky Mountain backdrop. The 3,100 foot runway is privately owned by the community and has been incorporated within its common green space.

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The phenomenon is spreading rapidly to Australia too. Kensington Parkside Airpark boasts admiringly that it’s based on a model established in the United States, and focused at a similar demographic. They even compare the migration of retirees to south east Queensland as analogous to the southern U.S. "Bundaberg too is an ideal situation in this regard with some of the least cluttered skies on the eastern seaboard." Several other residential airparks have been constructed and a number of others are currently on the drawing board.

Agrandir le plan

Continental Europe hasn’t been immune to the trend, either. Vendée Air Park in France advertises, "The air park is in an ideal location just 20 minutes from the nearest beaches and close to historic sites, nature reserves, cycle tracks, walks and golf courses."

I found only one oddly underrepresented geographic area where I expected to observe the trend: the United Kingdom. Instead I saw a lot of chatter on various boards frequented by pilots of personal aircraft bemoaning the lack of residential airparks in the UK. Could that possibly be true? I’d love to discover that the sites I visited were out-of-date.

On May 1, 2012 · 6 Comments

6 Responses to “Residential Airparks”

  1. Kingfisher, BC goes even further: a fly-in residential golf resort community:

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  2. Mike Lowe says:

    My neighboring town of Friendswood, Texas has the Polly Ranch Airport. I like to drive around it to see if the planes are out. The hangar garages are also good for storing nice cars.

    Let’s see if this linking thing works. Please edit the post if it fails.

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  3. Aaron says:

    The Spruce Creek fly in is one of the biggest I think, and also has areas where airplanes and cars can go on the same roads/taxiways – airplanes have the right of way though!

  4. RCraig says:

    RE:Residential airports. Don’t know if it’s residential. Check out:
    Sudden Stop Airport serves Collinsville and Grayson County and is owned by Don Swindle. The turf runway extends for 1550 feet. The facility is at an elevation of 720 feet at a distance of about one mile from Collinsville [Texas].

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