Hangar, sweet hangar

"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...

"I wanted to take passengers, so I got my pilot's license in 1995 and sold the second plane to buy a four-seater Capella experimental," he says. "I moved up in expense a little at a time."

That's the case with many plane owners, but there's a misconception that if you own a plane, your last name must be Trump. While it's true that, as with any big piece of machinery, the bigger you go, the more costly it is to buy and maintain, many who own planes have traveled a long road to get there.

Durio, for example, logged hundreds of valuable flight hours through partnerships - a common route for many owners. The first was a twin-engine plane he bought a share in with three other pilots. They set up a Web site for scheduling, using a calendar system so all had equal flying time and shared in annual maintenance costs.

"We each had priority weekends, but there was flexibility if someone wanted to take it," says Durio. "In 18 years, I think there were maybe three scheduling conflicts."

Durio's second plane, another twin-engine, was also a partnership, but it was with just one other person. After several years, it was time for a plane of his own; the house came soon after and was finished this fall.

"For me, half of ownership is just being able to open up the hangar and communicate with other fans," Durio says. "I'm in the hangar, and next thing I know, people come by, we're having a beer and talking about flying. It's a community bound by a common passion."

Feeling more at home around planes

Haverlah says that just about any tool, advice or information he needs is as easy as calling a neighbor. When he decided to build a plane this summer - a two-seater RV-7A experimental plane with a Mazda RX-8 rotary engine - he was able to get the advice of a neighbor who happened to be the technical adviser for the Experimental Aircraft Association. There's also a mechanic in the neighborhood, and someone who specializes in welding aluminum and stainless steel.

"For me, living here is the only way I can afford to fly and stay retired, since I don't have to hangar my planes anywhere," he says. "We also host fly-ins every summer, and the same people have gathered for the last 30 years from all over Central Texas. It's been great."

Even those without pilot credentials are attracted to the lure of a fly-in community.

Haverlah's daughter Sheryl McMillan and her husband, David, purchased two home sites on the runway in the fourth and final section of Breakaway a few years ago - one for themselves and one on which they're building a spec home that should be on the market by December. They say that between the land and the runway, it's a win-win for buyers.

"I don't fly, but I love being out here," says David McMillan. "It's a great area, the sun sets right over the runway, and there's the added bonus of being on the runway if you're a pilot."

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