By JANICE WOOD
General Aviation News
For years, Craig Draves and his wife, Becky, flew around the U.S. in their Piper Turbo Lance II. They enjoyed the traveling and flying but not the petty details needing attention to ensure smooth trips.
“Every time we went somewhere there were issues with packing personal belongings, hauling recreational gear, renting ground transportation at the destination, and finding living accommodations while there,” says Draves.
The hassles of traveling once the plane landed, coupled with the frustration of arriving at airports to discover there was no hangar space available for his pride and joy, set Draves to thinking there had to be a better way.
After talking with many pilots — some of whom flew to the same destinations over and over again for business or pleasure — he came up with the idea of condominiums for airplane owners, but with a twist: A hangar with living quarters above, while planes are parked on a floor that moves like a carousel. A company called BCD Development Inc. was created to develop and market the new hangar brand Carousel Condos.
While initially aimed at pilots who want to build a new home on an airpark, or need a home away from home near favorite activities such as skiing or hunting, Draves points out that the condo concept also is a solution to a problem that pilots across the nation are facing: No hangar space.
“In all of our travels, one problem that seemed to be prevalent at every airport we visited was that there were no hangar spaces available, either for transient flyers or for local residents and, in fact, most had a list of local pilots who had been waiting years for a hangar to become available,” he says.
Carousel condominiums can be scaled to fit owners’ precise needs, from hangars that can house four Piper Cubs to massive structures that can hold four Gulfstream GVs, along with 14 other twins and mid-size jets, Draves notes.
The size of the living quarters varies according to the size of the hangar, of course. In the smallest model, 70 feet X 70 feet, the four Cub owners would each get living quarters of about 1,225 square feet. Those Gulfstream owners would get living quarters to match their planes — more than 13,000 square feet each. “That’s a world-class chalet for the most discriminating jet owner/ski buff,” Draves says.
The upper level suites also could be used as offices for an FBO, airport owner, flight school or any other business on an airport, he adds.
A key selling point of the condominiums is the rotating carousel floor.
The carousel is moved by a computer-controlled rotational device that places an aircraft or an empty parking spot in front of the main hangar door just by pressing a button on the wall, Draves explains.
“Because a computer controls all aircraft movements within the building, and each movement done by a person is either a straight-line pull out of the hangar or a straight-line push back into the hangar, there is no possibility for hangar rash,” he says. “There also is no need for anyone to touch, move or handle anyone else’s aircraft.”
The hangars require the least amount of land per aircraft stored, require only one hangar door, and need just a small amount of apron for a large number of aircraft, he continues.
Once their planes are parked, condominium owners just need to walk upstairs to “be home.”
“There is no substitute for being able to fly in to a destination, place your aircraft inside your hangar, safe and secure, and go to your own home, with your own furnishings, sleep in your own bed, use your own bathroom and kitchen, without having to unpack the aircraft, carry the stuff to a rented car, and then transfer the belongings to rented living quarters,” Draves says.
Each upper level suite is customized to meet each owner’s preferences, from floor plans and layouts down to what kind of flooring they want.
Draves’ young company recently completed its first proof-of-concept Carousel Condos hangar, at the Mason City Municipal Airport (MCW) in Iowa. One suite is used as a model, while another has been sold to a King Air owner. The other two suites are up for sale.
Building a Carousel Condo involves myriad professional tradesmen, architects, engineers and decorators, according to Draves.
“All of our hangars are built to the building codes and requirements associated with the locale where they are constructed,” he says. “This can range from very strict building codes at municipal airports to not-so-strict building requirements in a rural area where only a county board might have jurisdiction over a private airpark development.”
Construction typically takes about five months, with costs starting around $55 a square foot. Those costs, obviously, vary depending on local building requirements, local labor costs, the size of the structure, and the amenities chosen by the owners, he says.
Draves sees several markets for the condos. The first is people who want to live with their planes at airparks and privately owned airports, especially those close to recreational venues such as skiing, hunting, fishing and golf, where people often have vacation homes. Another target market is snowbirds, who need a second home in Arizona, Florida, Texas or other warm places.
The condos also would be a good fit for commercial operations at publicly funded airports, such as FBOs, corporate flight operations offices, training facilities, avionics repair, etc., he says.
Obviously, he’d like to see Carousel Condos across the country, both at airparks and at airports.
“There are more than 5,000 airports and more than 500 airparks in the U.S. alone,” he said. “It is estimated that over 70% of these airports do not have adequate hangar space to meet the current demand.”
This will only get worse, he says, pointing to the new Light Sport Aircraft and Very Light Jets taking off these days. Owners of those aircraft are going to want “new, innovative aircraft hangars complimentary to these new and innovative aircraft,” he says.