This story appeared in the Antelope Valley Press on Sunday, November 26, 2006.
By PIERRE A. KANDORFER
Special to the Valley Press
ROSAMOND - An airport in our proximity? Beware! That's how most people feel about airplane traffic and propeller sound in their own neighborhood. Not so in one Rosamond community. At the Rosamond Skypark, the residents don't seem to be able to get close enough to their airplanes and the runway.
"This is our dream come true," said John Menduca, a retired California Highway Patrol officer who just built a house with a huge airplane hangar at the Skypark. "If you love to fly, this is the place to be. We are all aviation enthusiasts and we all want to be as close as possible to our plane and the runway."
Menduca is an enthusiastic private pilot and owner of a popular Van's RV6. Being just 49 and much too young to retire, he started his own hangar-based aviation business called SmokingAirplanes.com. Menduca developed a kit that produces smoke needed for air shows and skywriting.
"Living here is much different than in other communities," the self-proclaimed aviation nut said, "because we all share one common interest, and this is flying."
Rosamond's Skypark is a typical privately owned public access airport. This means that the airfield is not restricted to owners only, and other pilots do not need permission to land in Rosamond. The place is a popular weekend destination for private and recreational pilots from all over Southern California.
Legally, the Rosamond Skypark is a "common interest subdivision" of 60 privately owned residential lots and two commercial properties. All owners hold 1/62nd of the undivided common area such as runway, tarmac and unused space around the facilities. The current market value of their properties ranges from $350,00 to $800,000, depending on size, location and other features.
One of the Skypark's attractions is the Golden Cantina restaurant with an airplane parking lot between its patio and the taxiway. "Dining out next to your plane, you can't beat that," a frequent restaurant visitor said. "You can sit here, eat and watch airplanes taking off and landing. What else do you need?"
Skypark is one of several thousand "residential airparks" in the United States where houses are built around the runway and flying is a way of life. "It's not much different than a boating or golf course community," a Rosamond Cessna owner said, "we just don't use boats or play golf. We fly airplanes."
They are scattered everywhere. All houses here have their own airplane hangars where the residents park, store, service and cherish their planes. "This is the center of our attention," said Pat Peters, who finished building his RV6, a very popular and fast experimental two-seater, in his hangar.
"Actually, my grandfather started the project, but he got sick and wanted me to finish his dream," Peters said, "and I did. I finished the plane before my grandfather died. It makes me very happy."
Wherever you look, most of the people look happy, very happy. Why? They own nice houses and they live next to their favorite toys - airplanes. "That's how aviation nuts are," said Jim M. Payne, who uses his two-seater plane for his daily commune to South Edwards. He is project manager for Northrop's unmanned vehicle Global Hawk, which is tested at Edwards Air Force Base's Flight Test Center.
For Payne, 54, flying is heaven on earth. His hangar is 90 feet wide and stores several airplanes. His wife, Jackie, also owns an airplane and flies regularly in her Cessna 182.
Payne also is a very accomplished glider pilot and stores two of his gliders in his hangar. In March 1999, he established a world record with his fastest glider ride on a 247-mile round trip flight from California City to Bishop. He averaged a speed of 153.78 miles per hour, and this accomplishment made its entry into the Guinness Book of World Records.
While all other airpark owners placed their hangars on the runway side and the houses on the street side, Jim decided to do it the opposite way. From his living room window, he has a perfect view of the entire runway. "It can't get any better," he said, "because watching airplanes is my favorite thing to do."
Several residents use their airplanes to commute to work. A nurse flies daily to Burbank, while another small aircraft owner uses his plane to go to work in Van Nuys. "Planes make us mobile," Menduca said. "Some of our neighbors do extensive cross-country trips with their little planes to places such as Bermuda, Canada, Alaska and Mexico."
"Living next to our airplanes and next to the runway is our way of life," Payne concluded, "our way of happiness."