Development of a residential airpark usually requires some compromises between what is the ultimate in perfection and what can be accomplished financially and physically.
- Are clear zones needed at the end of a runway?
- How will taxiway location affect the number of airpark lots?
- How many lots can have direct access to the runway?
- Is it necessary to create taxiways or can all properties reach the runway directly?
- If a taxiway is required, can it be exclusively for airplanes or can aircraft and ground vehicles such as cars and bicycles jointly use it?
- The last issue – joint use of a taxiway by both aircraft and cars, bikes, horses, etc. – has become an extremely controversial issue at a number of residential airparks. In some cases the controversy over joint use starts with the local governing agency or zoning agency. Sometimes the question is raised when the airpark developer talks to a firm he wants to write an insurance policy. Often would-be lot buyers protest the issue because of safety concerns.
Many individuals have contacted Living With Your Plane about this issue. Among some of the questions asked:
Are there very many airparks utilizing a joint use arrangement?
How is the safety record for airparks with joint use of taxiways?
One inquiry concerned utilizing the runway for both airplanes and access to homes for cars.
Some information was already available to us at Living With Your Plane and some wasn’t. A lot of it hadn’t been updated recently, either, so we set out to see what information could be obtained.
We’ve compiled a listing of airparks that do utilize taxiways for both planes and ground vehicles and have included them in an adjoining list. We are sure there are other airparks that also have joint use operations in place but we haven’t heard from them yet.
To get to the most critical issue first, we can report that in all the years we’ve been tracking residential airparks only one serious accident between an airplane and ground vehicle – a fatality – has come to our attention. That occurred several years ago near Chicago when a taxiing airplane and a bicycle collided on a taxiway. The youngster riding the bike was killed.
We’re certainly believe there have been other incidents – fender-benders if we were to use auto terms – at joint use airparks but they don’t have to be reported to the FAA or NTSB because no one was injured or the damage was not substantial or both.
One person in Texas told us the airpark on which he owns a lot utilizes the runway for planes and access to homes by vehicles. He didn’t realize it until after he had purchased his property and he’s none to happy about the situation. Unfortunately, the other property owners see no problem with the operation and aren’t willing to make any changes, he reported. Needless to say, he didn’t want his name or the airpark’s name and location revealed.
Jamie Treat, secretary of Kelly Airpark homeowners association in Elbert, CO, reported, “we have aircraft – auto roads that service the outer lots. They join the east/west taxiways. You can go to our website and pull up the plat” (to see the full arrangement). He also pointed out that per the development plan, the county maintains the aircraft – auto roads.
Another development that has joint airplane – auto use is Mid Valley Airpark in Los Lunas, NM. Marv Kaylor sent the following information:
“Mid Valley Airpark has aircraft taxiways on which the public may travel in normal ground vehicles. Aircraft have the right of way at all times. This is posted at all entrances.
“There are no paved areas on which aircraft are prohibited. We have a taxiway parallel to the main runway as well as the runways themselves that are for aircraft only.
“All other paved areas are taxiways first and streets second. We have public vehicles such as school busses, delivery trucks, emergency vehicles, and general traffic every day. There is no through traffic and there are only 2 entry points for the airpark. Each entrance is at a railroad crossing and the boundaries of the airpark are very clearly defined.
“To my knowledge, there have not been any problems with this over the approximately 32 years of the airpark’s operation.”
Public officials, such as those who issue building permits or approve sub-division plats, rarely have much knowledge of general aviation. Because of the general lack of information, it is usually easier for a governmental office to simply prohibit things that don’t sound right to them and that happens often, we are told.
Some other comments from airpark property owners:
“Eagle Neck (1GA0), south of Savannah, GA, has combined street/taxi ways. No problems so far,” according to Dick Sipp.
“Elm Creek Estates residential airpark in Seguin, TX has a main road which is also a primary (but not the only) taxiway. It has been inhabited for more than 10 years and has 40 lots, 27 of which have both hangars and homes or combined hangar-homes,” reports a property owner. He continues:
“The road is the private property of the homeowner’s association. It is paved and maintained to county standards by ‘chip and seal’ repaving at approximately seven year intervals. Owning the road has no effect either way on property taxes,” he adds. The road is posted giving aircraft the right-of-way. No problems have arisen from the right of way. Not all lots require use of the road to reach the runway.”
Pilot Country Estates (X05) in Florida has a single paved runway (36/18) with a parallel taxiway on each side, running full length of the runway. These taxiways are also the driveways for access to the homes. There are areas too narrow for aircraft and cars to pass. There is a “mid field” turnoff from the runway to the west taxiway,” is information from Bob Gibson of Clearwater, FL
A different viewpoint on the situation comes from Deron Reynolds who is in the throes of trying to develop an airpark in Michigan. He says:
“I strongly feel that the layout of an airpark should have clear delineation between taxiways and roadways. All of the designs I have for my future airpark have grass taxiways in the backs of 5-acre properties leading to the grass strip, and paved roads in the front of properties leading to the main road.
“I feel this way for several reasons. Aesthetically, I want people to be able to walk out the back of their property and see nothing but rolling grass fields. We will be encouraging children and horses to utilize this space as well, with only the runway itself being an area to avoid. Practically, I don’t like the right of way issues associated with dual use roads, even though I understand there have been virtually no mishaps with this setup.” Reynolds concludes.
John Eney, airport manager at Chesapeake Ranch Airport (MD50) at Lusby, MD writes that there is not a joint use at his airport. “We do have an unfenced airport with the runway frequently traversed by joggers, bikers, golf carts and parents pushing babies in strollers on the runway. Pray for us!”
Finally, word from Gordon Holm of Payson, AZ:
“Mazatzal Mountain Airpark at Payson, AZ has street – taxiways designated in the plot plan and aircraft have the right of way. The only problem has been ‘looky loo’s’ with gray hair not knowing aircraft cannot back up. Given time they get the message and get out of the way. A turning prop is a good message and they turn tail and are gone.
“We had a problem with the horse folks for a while in that their assumption (as most horse people) that in Arizona horses have the right of way. With the help of some aviation interested horsemen they got the message that in the area of taxiway – streets the aircraft have the right of way.”
Most airpark developers and those who have had experience at one will probably agree that the best course of action is to keep airplanes separated from cars, bikes, horses, etc. if at all possible. However, joint use apparently can be accomplished in a manner that is safe as evidenced by numerous examples.
Here’s the list of airparks that we have been informed have joint use of streets – taxiways (arranged by state):
- Mazatzal Mt. Airpark , Payson, AZ
- Cameron Airpark, Shingle Springs, CA
- Leeward Air Ranch, Ocala, FL
- Pilot Country Estates, Springs Hill, FL
- Spruce Creek, Daytona Beach FL
- Eagle Neck, Shellman Bluff, GA
- Lake Aero Estates, Lake Village, IN
- Gold Hill Airpark, Gold Hill, NC
- Aero Plantation, Wseddington, NC
- Marchmont Plantation, Advance, NC
- Elk Creek Estates, Seguin, TX