AdChoiceTV News — When suburbs were created in the US after WWII, they were designed to be an escape from urban density, a way for American families to start a fresh new life post-war, and a utopia for car owners.
One suburb in California took it a step further, creating a fly-in community centered around an airport for pilots and aviation enthusiasts who could store their planes at home.
Cameron Airpark Estates, which is part of Cameron Park and near Sacramento, California, is a residential airpark where homeowners have hangars, and where planes on the streets are as common as cars.
While there are around 640 residential airparks in the world, according to the niche site “Living with Your Airplane,” Cameron Airpark Estates is said to be one of the nicer ones. The only home there currently for sale on Zillow costs $1.5 million.
Built in 1963 along with Cameron Park Airport, the airpark is today home to 124 houses, with around 20 empty lots left.
Roads in the neighborhood are 100 feet wide, designed so that pilots can taxi their planes right from the airport to their doorsteps.
Cameron Park Airport’s manager Kevin Cooksy told AdChoiceTV News that the airpark’s roads are actually wider than the airport’s runway since they’re designed for planes and cars to pass one another safely, whereas the runway should only have aircraft going one way.
Other unique quirks to a neighborhood designed for pilots are that street signs and mailboxes are built extra low, at less than 3 feet, so that they don’t get clipped by planes’ wings, and that street names are all appropriately aviation-themed, from Boeing Road to Cessna Drive.
Residents with planes also have remotes similar to garage door clickers that allow them to open the electric gates to the airport and come and go as they please.
Many residents commute to work by plane
Hobby pilot Burl Skaggs moved to Cameron Airpark Estates in 2003 from the Bay Area, enticed by lower prices and the huge hangars each home had since he owned a small plane.
For seven years, until his retirement, the mechanical engineer commuted to his job in Palo Alto by plane every morning, saving himself hours he’d otherwise spend in traffic.
“Instead of a two-and-a-half or three-hour drive, I had about a 35-, 40-minute airplane ride,” he told AdChoiceTV News. “I don’t commute anymore, but I still have an airplane to play with.”
Cooksy also moved from the Bay Area and commuted to work for years. He said saving himself hours usually spent in traffic and being able to live in the Sierra Nevada mountains drew him to the area.
“Going down to the [regular] airport from here is about an hour, and then you’ve got to wait and go through security, the whole drill. Here, you open up your garage door and you fire up the plane, go down to the runway, and take off,” Daniel Kurywchak, president of Friends of Cameron Park Airport, said.
Snagging a house in the airpark isn’t easy
Kurywchak has lived in the airpark for five years and said that to snag a home with a hangar “you basically gotta wait for somebody to die.”
When he heard of a house going up for sale in the airpark, he said he rushed over and made an offer that same day.
“You gotta jump on it when these things happen,” he said, since the number of homes in the airpark are limited.
According to Skaggs, “each house here is unique” as each was built by an individual to their taste, adding personality to the neighborhood. Skaggs added that Cameron Airpark Estates is a special district within California that’s run by a five-member elected board, of which he is president.
Despite not being the world’s only airpark, residents believe Cameron Airpark Estates is special
“It’s pretty unique, it has a very suburban sort of feel. It’s not a couple of houses out in the boondocks somewhere that happen to share a runway,” Skaggs said of the neighborhood, adding that there are many shops and restaurants nearby.
Of course, the area is also unique in that most residents share an interest in aviation.
“When you go to our social events, it’s hilarious, it’s all these old pilots from World War II to Vietnam to new young airline guys, and I swear every single one of them will stop what they’re doing and have to look at a plane taking off and talk about it,” Kurywchak said.
“We’ve decided to build an area where everybody likes to do the same thing together,” Skaggs said. “The rule of thumb here is if your hangar is open, you’re welcome, come on over.”
The neighborhood usually hosts tons of annual events, he said, from Halloween parades to Christmas parties, which most of the community attends — though these events are on hold for the time being.
Julie Clark, a recently retired aerobatic air show aviator and one of the first female commercial airline pilots in the United States has lived in the airpark since 1983.
She recounted getting shingles a few years ago and having neighbors bring by food, check in on her, offer to do errands.
“We’re so close-knit, everybody knows everybody else’s business,” she told Insider, adding that the running joke locally is: “Ask my neighbor what they know about me because they know more about me than I do.”
Not everyone in the airpark has a plane or is an aviation enthusiast, though
A significant amount — Skaggs estimates almost 50% — of residents are car collectors to whom the massive garage-hangars also appeal to.
“It’s one of our challenges that it’s not 100% hardcore aviation folks in here,” Skaggs said.
Clark agreed, saying that the car owner “infiltration” can sometimes rub the aviation enthusiasts the wrong way because they sometimes complain about plane noise, or don’t want to contribute to maintaining the roads for aircraft.
Cooksy admitted that there’s a minority of people outside of the airpark that complain about air traffic, but said that “the airport makes an effort to play nice with the neighbors,” citing strict noise ordinances and curfews.
Residents love the neighborhood
Clark restores her own planes and said that she loves the easy access having a hangar allows her to have to them, since it lets her work on her planes whenever she wants.
“Instead of doing laundry, I work on my airplanes,” she said.
Kurywchak said his kitchen looks out onto the runway, so he likes to radio in to his wife when he’s about to land, who then waves to him from the window.
“It’s like pinch yourself, I can’t believe I actually live here,” he said.
“We’re doing something special,” Skaggs said. “It’s unique to live here.”
Originally published at Insider / via Sean Tyler Chan