By CHRISTINA ALMEIDA Associated Press Writer
ROSAMOND ‑ Most people have a car or SUV parked in the garage. Scott Loftin has three airplanes. The 50‑year‑old aviation enthusiast is a resident of Rosamond Skypark, a tidy subdivision on the edge of the Mojave Desert where single‑family homes are adjacent to hangars, and airplane noise isn't considered a nuisance. Three days a week, Loftin, a biomedical engineer, revs up the engine of his Glasair RV‑6 or Cessna 152 and rumbles down a nearby runway to begin his commute to San Jose or Los Angeles. "There's more to it than the time factor," he said. "It's the mystique of flying to work."
There are some 560 skyparks across the country, ranging from fancy to comparatively modest, with another 20 planned.
The popularity of the communities is largely driven by aviation buffs like Loftin, who are looking to use their planes more than just on the weekends.
Actor John Travolta lives with his Gulfstream II jet and Boeing 707 at an exclusive airpark in Florida that includes a country club and inn and the nation's longest private residential runway at 7,550 feet, according to the community's Web site.
Rosamond, on the other hand, consists mostly of empty nesters and retired couples who have saved over the years to afford the unusual lifestyle. The neighborhood includes colonial and ranch‑style homes distinguished by sprawling backyards that lead to cavernous hangars housing anything from $90,000 two‑seater experimental planes to gliders. Built in 1986 with 60 lots, the privately owned subdivision has three vacant spots left, starting at $195,000. Houses average about $400,000.
Obeying an honor system, residents and visitors typically avoid departures and arrivals early in the morning and late at night.
Without an airport tower, pilots navigate backyard taxiways on their own and radio each other before taking off and landing at the 3,600‑foot public runway.
In the sky, they follow standard visual flight rules and remain under constant monitoring by the Federal Aviation Administration.
John Wilson moved to the skypark nearly 20 years ago, looking for a bigger home and a place to park his Cessna 182. Before retiring in 2001, he flew daily to Burbank Airport, then drove six miles in traffic to Hollywood, where he worked as manager of technical facilities at a television network. "Flying was the shortest part of it," said Wilson, who averaged his air time at about 30 minutes. "All the time, I'd look down and, shake my head and sympathize with all the people down there ... I'd say, 'Glad I'm not down there."' Wilson, 67, said he also saved almost a dollar a gallon on gas by flying part of the way.
While the shorter commutes are a boon, residents say the camaraderie of the community is what keeps them there. "In a regular neighborhood, everyone does different jobs. In this environment, we have a common interest," said John Manduca, president of the Rosamond Skypark Association. "We're all pilots. We speak the same language."
They also look out for each other and their planes. Many airparks, including the one in Rosamond, have numerous fences and padlocks. Airplanes are almost always kept in hangars, and if they are outside, residents say they are disabled so no one can steal them.
"People want to know who is near their airplane, what is happening to it," said Dave Sclair, publisher of Living With Your Plane, an online newsletter that tracks residential airparks.
Above Rosamond, planes crisscross the sky, carrying residents to and from work, away for vacations or on joy rides.
Jim Payne, who manages Northrop Grumman Corp.'s test flight operations for the Global Hawk unmanned reconnaissance .plane at Edwards Air Force Base, is frequently among the fliers. Payne uses his two‑seater Van's RV‑6A to commute 24 miles to his office on the base. "Every morning there (are) several thousand people waiting to get into Edwards," Payne said, "and I'm doing 150 mph over the gate."
Above © AV Press & AP