Sunday, December 26, 2004
Residential airports are hot properties
By LEROY STANDISH
The Victorville (CA) Daily Press
When Chuck Laird wakes up in the mornings he can roll out of bed and soar to 5,000 feet quicker than most people can make it from the garage to the freeway. Laird lives to fly. That’s why his garage opens up to a taxiway at the Adelanto Airport, which has two dirt runways – one 4,800 feet long and another at 3,700 feet. The airport, located southwest of the intersection of Rancho and Koala roads, is one of two in the Victor Valley that cater to a unique clientele: residential pilots.
Wes Krause has been a resident of the Hesperia Airport for four years. He owns a 1948 Beechcraft Bonanza.
“It’s in a hangar in the back yard,” Krause said.
When not in the mood for rustling up a hearty breakfast, lunch or dinner, he’s been known to go flying for his grub.
“Catalina – they have a nice breakfast there right where the airport is,” he said.
Big Bear caters to later meals.
When he flies out for lunch, “They are called $100 hamburger flights,” Krause said.
Laird and Krause belong to a somewhat exclusive club that continues to grow in popularity. Residential air parks are hot properties across the United States.
“It is a growing trend that has been increasing over the last 10 years,” said Dave Sclair, who founded “Living With Your Plane General Aviation News” in the late 1970s.
Sclair said there are more than 600 of these air parks scattered throughout the country and two or three new ones pop up every year.
“As the cost of tying down or finding a hangar on a public airport has increased, people have said, ‘Why don’t I take the X number of dollars that I am paying for the tie downs and put it into a home?’ ” Sclair said.
Security is another reason for the increase.
“People want to know where their airplane is and who is around, and with a residential air park you know everyone who is there,” he said.
Locally, the Adelanto Airport, zoned for desert living with one-acre lot minimums, has only six full-time residents. But on the weekends the place is abuzz with prop wash, hosting about 20 property owners who fly in.
More are moving in.
Larry Baxter is a longtime property owner at the Adelanto airfield. He owns a hangar, adjoining a taxiway west of the field’s main dirt runway. Inside are a trio of planes he has under construction. He flies one regularly – a 1962 Commander 560-F. On the other end of his hangar is a walled-off residence, with a kitchen, a bed and a bath.
Baxter is building a similar hangar/residence/workshop for a new neighbor.
“It’s called a multi-use,” Baxter said. He anticipates 10 new residences will go up within the 326-acre park in the next year.
Joe Pike, a helicopter pilot, is building a hangar for four choppers. He said he will eventually add a house onto the side.
“Why not live with your toys?” he said. “It’s every pilot’s dream to walk out of your house and go fly anyplace you want.”
As part of his endeavor, Pike brought electricity to the park. Other utilities, such as water and gas, are lacking, though. Residents rely on solar power and generators for electricity, and private wells for water.
Laird, president of the Adelanto Air Park Association, said that is slowly changing. That will make the air park, founded in 1961, more enticing to new residents and perhaps future commercial interests.
Don Hilly, president of the Hesperia Airport Association, said there are still a few lots left for development with runway access.
The Hesperia Airport, located southwest of Ranchero and Summit Valley roads, is somewhat limited in terms of expansion and the residents do not own the airport, as those in Adelanto do. Hesperia Airport’s owners do not live on the airport and rely on the property owners to care for the runway, Hilly said.
The Hesperia airfield is hemmed in by a railroad line and residential streets. The airport, founded in 1958, has only one runway, a restaurant, a small motel and a maintenance hangar.
Many of the air park residents bought property there in their younger days and have since become too old to fly.
“Most of the members of the association don’t fly,” Hilly said. “They are victims of aging.”
He predicts many of the properties will turn over to a younger set in the next decade, reinvigorating the airport.
“It is basically a very sedate type of air park. Elderly people predominate,” Hilly said. “But I suspect the next 10 to 15 years will show a big change because a lot of people will be moving … We need young people, is what we need.”
Living with the smell of aviation fuel and the roar of takeoffs and landings may not be for everyone, but for those with a passion for flight it is the only way.
“If you think about it, it is no different than somebody that lives on a marina or a dock with a boat,” Krause said. “It is just a matter of where your heart is.”