In 2004 I decided to focus all my professional efforts into the design and engineering field. This gave me the opportunity to do something that I had dreamed of for a couple of decades – the ultimate dream of most pilots: move into an aviation community. I designed our new home and we moved into a small 25′ camper trailer on our property at Love’s Landing, in Central Florida, and set about building those plans into our new home.Â The day we moved out of that camper and into our new, rather sparely furnished, at the time, home, was one of our happiest and most fulfilling.
What is an aviation community? It is one of the real symbols of freedom to any living in the United States – pilot or non-pilot. It is a residential community, a collection of homes and hangars, owned and lived in by individuals who also own, individually or collectively as a small group, a runway or sometimes more than one runway.
These individuals (and that is a very descriptive word in this case) own their own aircrafts. They keep these airplanes on their own property, in hangars (usually) and may come and go, by air, as they please.
Most such neighborhoods have streets like any other place one has ever seen or lived in. Cars go up and down the streets just as we see most anywhere in the U.S of A. But the exception is, and its a big one, that in these aviation communities the cars share the roads with airplanes. Yep – they use the same road. The airplanes have right of way so if a car and airplane are vying for the same patch of road, the car will move off the road, into a driveway or to the site, and let the airplane pass.It’s a friendly act and each in the neighborhood gladly makes way for their aviation brethren. The airplanes are usually on their way to the runway to fly into the yonder, or are just returning from a trip and heading back to their home.
It is an unusual sight for those not used to it.
The hangars usually range from about 1500 sqft on up to 6000 sqft or so. A common size that I have observed is about 2000 sqft. These hangars become places to store an airplane or two, as well as, usually, the myriad of objects that red blooded Americans like to accumulate – with the additional aviation items and tools that pilots often need and want. Some hangars are separate to the home – some, like my own, are connected and look like they are part of the house. From the front one would scarcely know that I have a hangar.
For my wife and I, this neighborhood has been a dream come true. Though living in the country and away from our families in Tampa, we feel less isolated because we can simply hop in the airplane and head down for a visit.
The neighbors here are like no others I’ve experienced. Most communities, at least these days in America, tend to become sets of isolated homesteads – with neighbors often having only the mildest familiarity with each other. But in this community there is a camaraderie that I’ve never seen. The common aviation interest is the likely genesis, but we generally know and care about each other. We get together in the evenings to watch a neighbor in his or her biplane – simply congregating in our golf carts or on foot in little impromptu powwows. There is nothing like a cool October evening, sun about an hour from setting, half the community out just enjoying life, aviation, and each other’s company.Â Sunday’s are a common time that a group from here will fly out to a breakfast destination. We also have an Experimental Aircraft Association chapter which meets on the field each month. it’s nice just to walk down to one of our neighbor’s hangars and meet with our friends to share or appreciation for aviation. We also have fly-ins here, a few times per year. Literally hundreds of others will fly their own airplanes in and we will join for lunch and other festivities.
In my business I’ve found that living here has offered me the opportunity to travel throughout the state of Florida and Southeast United States. That and the internet make the delivery of my engineering and other services a breeze.
Few other countries have the freedoms in aviation that we still have in this country. It is a freedom that is being fought for each day in Washington. AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association) is a tireless promoter of that freedom and remains vigilant to help keep politicians from reducing those freedoms. I personally believe that private, general aviation pilots, are like the canaries in a mining cave. Watch them to see how free this country is – just as the miners watch the canaries for signs of poor air. You see the pilots, free to fly their own airplanes, free to live and fly from communities such as this, and this country can be considered to still be in relatively good shape.Â See those freedoms erode, and so will go many others.
If you are a pilot, you should consider living this dream. There are many sources of data of the many such communities around the country. Florida has a large number of them because of our wonderful flying weather. Just contact someone associated with such a community, you may well be invited in for a visit.
I’ve included a little video on this blog following a routine day trip I recently took to Clearwater,Â Florida.Â Hope you enjoy.
And if you have any questions about airport communities, give me a call or drop me a line. I can get you in contact with the right people to start your dream.
I’ve designed many airport community homes in numerous states. Contact me if you need help with your design.