"Honey, can you park the plane?"
Most people need a garage. But there are few folks who need an airplane hangar.
Luckily for those with a passion for the skies, there are several Central Texas communities that offer the ability to take off at will because the runway is just down the street.
For Dennis Haverlah, a retired LCRA engineer who has owned his first plane, a Beechcraft Bonanza four-seater, for 35 years, it was about being part of a community of people who share the same interests.
"I love flying, and I wanted to be near my plane so I could go whenever I wanted, but we also wanted to be with other flyers," Haverlah says. He has lived in one of Central Texas' first airpark communities, Breakaway in Cedar Park, for 28 years, ever since passionate aviator and Austinite Walter Yates developed it in 1979. "It just seemed like the right thing to do."
For Keith Durio, an avid pilot and longtime custom home builder in Austin, a hangar home was a dream come true. After driving from a Lake Travis home to the plane's hangar at the Georgetown Airport for 20 years, Durio now can walk just a few steps from his front door to his Cessna 310 at the Lakeway Airpark.
"I am just in heaven. Just opening up the hangar door and seeing it in my garage is great," he says, laughing. "Now I can start the plane, go across the street to the runway and take off. It's pretty incredible."
Durio, his wife of 30 years, Sue, and their two daughters, 15 and 17, have flown to the Bahamas and Belize for family vacations, Nevada and Louisiana for weekend getaways, and now to colleges as their oldest decides on a school. She's considering aeronautical engineering as a major and is taking flying lessons, and that's just fine with dad.
"I've been into this since we took a trip in 1985 with a friend and his wife in his plane to the Virgin Islands," he says. "I immediately started taking flying lessons and knew I wanted to be in a community like this someday."
Sam Chapman, a real estate agent in the Lakeway area, says though it's not huge, there is demand for homes in airpark communities.
"It's like waterfront property," he says. "It's a small segment of the market, but once one goes on the market, if it's priced right, it's gone."
Doris Van Trease is married to a retired TWA pilot who keeps two planes at the Spicewood Airport. She's also an agent with Turnquist Partners in Lakeway and says she's getting a lot of requests lately from pilots across the country who want to live in airpark communities here.
One recent sale was a lot that a New Hampshire couple bought so they could build a house and hangar of their own.
"All of the lots in the Lakeway Airpark allow you to have a house and a hangar, and there's only two or three left out of 40," says Trease.
Jeff Passell's fascination with ultralight planes was the reason he and his wife, Tina, purchased 33 acres in Driftwood in 1998, building a 3,100-square-foot house on the side of a hill with a beautiful pool ... and a 44-foot-by-44-foot underground hangar in the back of the house. Walk up to the house, or even around back, and you'd never know there's a plane in there.
"I can drive the plane under the house to park it. It's pretty unusual," he says. "The best part is that the temperature is constant year-round. And, though we didn't think of it at the time, it also works well as a storm shelter, and we've used it for that."
Now that their kids are grown, the Passells have decided to downsize, and the Driftwood house is on the market for $985,000. Polly Sprott of Century 21 Ripley has the listing. But Jeff Passell is already looking for another hangar home, or a home for his ultralight at the airport in New Braunfels or San Marcos. Either way, there will be a spot for his plane.
Many pilots share ownership
Passell's first ultralight was a single-seater Quicksilver MX-2; he sold it to buy a Quicksilver MX Supersport, a two-seater acrobatic plane that could better handle the wind. A few years later, he decided he wanted company.
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