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Runway or Driveway?

Runway or Driveway?

John Travolta lives in one, and so too does an increasing number of much less famous (and less wealthy) people. Airparks – or housing developments designed for people who want an airstrip outside their front door and a hangar beside the house – are becoming increasingly popular.

If you fly for fun, then you would have noticed the disturbing trend towards airfield closures. Most of the major airfields and regional airports are under threat from real estate developers, and most of us stand by powerless to do anything about it. Well, there is an option, and that is to create an Airpark – a residential development that does not close the airfield, but embraces it.

One of the upsides of living closer to your aircraft is you simply expand the enjoyment or utility of your aeronautical asset, whether you fly it for leisure, business, or both. That’s why the “air park” concept in various forms is catching on in Australia as it has already done elsewhere, particularly in the USA.

In its simplest form, an air park property is a residence that’s on (or very close to) an airport and can be reached either by road or by runway/taxiway; and therefore has accommodation for your car/s and your aircraft.  And in extreme cases, maybe there could also be a mooring for the family boat.

Another advantage is security, because nobody wants to walk up to their aircraft and find its propeller or some expensive avionics item missing; or for that matter, that a whole aircraft that has gone missing. Then there’s the relatively serene nature of a low-utilisation airfield in terms of ATC communication requirements and competing traffic, a usually friendly atmosphere, and in most cases fewer costs associated with parking and airport usage.

It’s no coincidence that two of the airports where the air park concept has caught on in a big way are Temora and Narromine, both being well-known hotspots of RA – Aus activity, which at the moment is the growth prodigy of Australian aviation.


Bundaberg, Qld

There will be 115 residential airpark lots enjoying unrestricted access to Bundaberg Regional Airport via a sealed private taxiway then a sealed parallel taxiway adjacent to the main runway on the airport. The airpark lots range in size from 800 m² to 1500m², easily sufficient with sensible design to accommodate home, garage, and hangar, with room for pool and garden. The airpark will be subdivided under the Community Title Act with access roads, taxiways and associated landscaped areas held as common property; and with high amenity security fencing to external boundaries; entry gates at road entries; and a transponder activated gate for aircraft leading to and from the airports runway.

The residential airpark will be restricted to residents, guests, and their private recreational aircraft. Even privately owned recreational helicopters will be allowed provided they are towed to and from the airport for takeoff and landing. The use of the residential airpark for commercial aircraft use will not be allowed with such aircraft able to operate from the Kensington Business Airpark.

Gatton, Qld

Keith and Hazel Jackwitz are not your everyday real estate developers. In fact, their airpark is their one and only ever development venture, and they’re in it first and foremost through their mutual love of aviation.

The pair’s airpark concept goes back to the mid-eighties when they bought the land with the express purpose in mind. It was chosen particularly because it was above the Lockyer flood plain (in January 2011 it was high and dry). An air show was organised to promote the concept but in those days the payment of just a few hundred dollars in aircraft registration fees entitled you to use the use of any runway in Australia, and also in those days pilots could park their aircraft at any airport for as long as they liked.

But Keith knew that the “user pays” concept was on the way and the pair persisted with their dream. He had to refloat the concept with every newly-elected Lockyer Mayor and appointed town planner (three of each he recalls), but eventually he got lucky with a combination that had an open mind to the possibilities.

Keith remembers having to prove to local government that there was a market “Which, by that stage, wasn’t hard to do,” and away they went. However, he really doubts that such a project could ever get going again. The hassles he and Hazel went through recently just to have the final stage approved were very different to the co-operative and supportive approach they had for Stages 1 and 2.

Their get-it-done persistence has paid off. There are now a total of 64 lots at Gatton, with only 23 left unsold; and there will be no more stages says Keith. “When they are gone, that’s it – finito!”

Gatton Airpark is primarily a housing development with an airstrip attached. The airstrip is wholly owned by the lot holders of the estate. Keith believes that the situation prevailing in all other Australian airparks is that people own a house and/or hangar at an airport; an airport which is owned by someone else. Gatton Airpark is radically different: the lot owners own the airpark. The management of Gatton Airpark is completely democratic, with all lot holders have an equal vote.

The township of Gatton itself is a friendly, well-managed little community within easy reach of South East Queensland?s major centres. In fact, it sits within one of the fastest growing areas in Australia. Probably the most appreciated bonus of all is the continually fine weather, with an abundance of nearby airfields and like-minded aviators (not unlike those of us in the Brisbane Valley Sport Aviation Club) staging fly-ins and other aviation themed events.

Keith says that when he and Hazel retire (and, he adds with a smile, that day is getting closer), they will certainly move to the airpark to enjoy the aviation community they have helped create. They are looking forward to doing ever more flying.

Keith earns his living by growing vegetables just 5 km down the road from the airpark and he has been a grower in the Lockyer Valley for all of his working life. Hazel brings in additional income by managing a vegetable seedling business on the same farm.

Keith started flying back in the sixties at the age of seventeen. He trained with Rod Trousdall at Toowoomba and did his theory via correspondence. Keith remembers that hiring a plane with an instructor back then cost $13.50 per hour. To Keith this was expensive, about ¼ of his weekly wage (actually the GA rate is probably about the same today). The aircraft were brand new Piper Cherokee 140 aircraft, and he gained his PPL in 1967.

In the years since, whether good farming years or bad, Keith has always been flying, the only break being a year serving his country in Vietnam.

Hazel is a pilot too and has held her PPL for about 25 years. Her interest was kindled by almost having an unplanned Trial Instructional Flight while holding the brake lever on Keith’s Piper Colt as he was hand starting it. It was decided at the time that Hazel would benefit from a few lessons and, from that moment on, she has never looked back. She did her ab initio flying in the Colt, then navigation training in the couple?s Cessna 210, and finally finished with a twin-engine IFR rating. (And people say that Keith had the bug!).

Keith and Hazel have also owned a Piper Navajo and a couple of Pawnees. They still have a half share in the original Colt too. Their present aircraft, however, is a Vans RV7A, which they built in their garage over an 18 month period. The plane?s first flight was in January 2007. Its GA registration is HGJ, which stands for “Hazel Grace Jackwitz”. The sporty little aircraft is painted in rather bright colours, perhaps not quite to Keith?s choosing, but then, like most married men, he knows when to agree with his better half. The couple are planning their next flying trip for July, when they will head north-west across the continent to the Kimberly’s, hopefully, according to Keith, avoiding the diamonds and pearl salesmen of that region while they are there.

Keith says that the development of the airpark was a real challenge for both of them. It is easy to see that they are extremely proud of their achievement, even though they are quick to credit the venture?s success to the people who have bought into the project with them.

Keith says that the development creates opportunity for the kind of aviation-oriented lifestyle that they all enjoy, where they can invest in a house and hangar with absolute confidence that only they have the right to close the airfield (as if they ever would).



Are you interested in living in a residential estate with your aircraft parked in your own back yard?  Or maybe you would like to build a hangar to house your aircraft with freehold title to the site?   If so, then Narromine Aerodrome might accommodate your needs.   Following the finalisation of its Aerodrome Strategic Plan last year, Narromine Council has many exciting developments planned for the Narromine  Aerodrome so  if you are interested in purchasing some land and constructing your own hangar or a house and hangar at Narromine Aerodrome, then contact the Council for more details.

Council has released off the plan, 10 new allotments in Stage IV of its very successful Residential Skypark where you can park your plane in your own backyard with direct access onto the runways.    With 40 blocks now released, and just 8 blocks left in this new stage, if you are interested in living in a prestigious Skypark estate at Narromine, then contact Council before all the blocks are sold.   The unique curved design of the Skypark provides a wonderful unencumbered view of the airfield, situated as it is in the triangle between the two sealed runways.   A feature of the new release is the large size of the blocks ranging  from  1550m2  up to 2258m2 and prices start at $99,000 including GST and are priced at just $65 and $70m2 depending upon the position of the block.  The size variation will allow greater flexibility for purchasers.

All Skypark blocks  have freehold title, all services including power, sewer, water, natural gas and the usual amenity of any residential estate with street lights and an open space recreational area.  A covenant protects the owner’s  right to access the runways, and there are no landing fees.

Besides its Skypark, and the proposed new development for hangars, Narromine Aerodrome  is well known for many attributes  not the least being, – the home of the replica Wright Flyer aircraft –  the Sport Aircraft  Association of Australia (SAAA),  the oldest licensed country Aero Club in Australia and boasts an Aviation Museum and Clubhouses for both the Aero and Gliding Clubs.  The Aviation Museum is currently expanding with new additions underway.    Narromine is also one of the three best gliding areas in the world and the Narromine Gliding Club has a fifty percent membership of international pilots.   The World Youth Gliding Championships will be held in Narromine in December  2015 with the Pre-World Comp this year.    The SAAA organise Ausfly each September which attracts a few hundred aircraft and lots of activity at the Aerodrome.   Another airshow is planned for September and  great things are expected from this enthusiastic aviation group.  So, with so much happening at Narromine Aerodrome, it’s worth looking into.


Wentworth Airways Estate

The Wentworth Shire Council’s Airways Estate is one of the country’s more innovative developments for the aviation enthusiast.  The concept is a very simple one. Just as golf fanatics line up to live on a doorstep of their own course, we are offering flyers a similar opportunity to live in close proximity to their own aerodrome.

No travelling, no traffic, no fuss. Just wheel your aircraft out of its hangar, hit the starter button and taxi out onto the runway. You’re away.

Stage One of the project was implemented about a decade ago and the catalyst for Stage 2 has been an increasing interest from flyers around the country in this exciting residential opportunity.

The Council has spent nearly $200,000 in the past year or so significantly improving and upgrading the facilities to make it one of the country’s top country aerodromes.

In the past 18 months projects at the aerodrome have extensively upgraded the runways, turning circles and taxiways and seen the installation of a ‘swipe card’ refuelling facility.

The expected purchase price is in the range of $50,000.  Each lot is approximately 7500 square metres (2 acres by the old measure) and will feature access to underground power, telecommunications, filtered water for indoor use and unfiltered ‘raw’ water for outside use including gardens.

The aerodrome is serviced by a sealed road and is handy to the historic river port township of Wentworth, the centre of town being just five kilometres away.

Wentworth boasts a comprehensive suite of services including medical services, a post office (2648), a Bendigo Bank with ATM, an IGA supermarket, a chemist, two hardware stores, three hotels, a Services Club, numerous accommodation options to suit all pockets, an Elders franchise, a deli, takeaway food outlets and a la carte dining and wine tasting at The Red Café and Restaurant.

The town has three fuel outlets and two mechanical repair businesses as well as a specialist tyre retailer, fitter and repairer.

These developments, by luck and design, have been able to combine great flying facilities with a high quality residential development. Something that should appeal to any flyer.

More importantly, it shows what can be done to preserve this great hobby of ours by addressing the otherwise conflicting issues of predatory developers, unimaginative councils and local concerns over noise.

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