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Thursday, May 01, 2014

Spruce Creek: Where Everybody Owns an Airplane

Spruce Creek, in Northeast Florida, a few miles south of Daytona Beach, is one of the most unique residential communities in the world. Known as a residential airpark or a fly-in community, Spruce Creek comprises of 5,000 residents, 1,300 homes and 700 hangars, that share a unique life in this private gated village centered around a private airfield. Instead of a garage, most houses in Spruce Creek have attached hangar, and the driveway leads directly to a 4,000-by-150-foot runway with GPS approach. There is an 18-hole golf course, several flying clubs, rental aircraft and flight training, and 24-hour patrolled security. For those whose lives revolve around airplanes, Spruce Creek is a paradise.
Spruce Creek’s most famous resident was American actor and pilot John Travolta who lived at the airpark for many years. Travolta was driven out of the park, to some extent, by complaints from the airpark’s residents who resented the tremendous noise generated by his Boeing 707, a former Quantas Airline jet previously owned by Frank Sinatra, and partly because his 250,000-pound airliner was too big for Spruce Creek’s runway. Earlier Travolta was sued by the same people to stop him from landing his 35,000-pound Gulfstream II jet on the runway.
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Aside from an occasional Boeing, Spruce Creek’s aircrafts consist of a stunning collection of Cessnas and Pipers, a P-51 Mustang, several L-39 Albatros, an Eclipse 500, a French Fouga Magister and even one Russian MiG-15 fighter jet. In addition to all the airplanes and golf cars, you’ll see Lamborghinis, Corvettes, motorcycles of every description and even a Porsche GT2.
The people of Spruce Creek live in a tightly knit community. Most of them are professional pilots and they talk in aviation jargon. Others are doctors, lawyers and land speculators, but all of them are, without exception, nuts about aviation. Every Saturday morning, some of them would gather beside the runway, take off in groups of three and fly to one of the local airports for breakfast – a tradition they call the Saturday Morning Gaggle.
But Spruce Creek isn’t the only residential airpark in the country. The concept first developed after World War II, a time period when the United States had an incredible surplus of both airfields and pilots, created by the war, whose population had ballooned from fewer than 34,000 in 1939 to more than 400,000 by 1946. In order to put countless deactivated military strips across the nation to good use and to accommodate the burgeoning pilot population, the Civil Aeronautics Administration proposed the construction of 6,000 residential airparks throughout the country. While that number was never fulfilled, the initial proposal generated enough momentum to pave the way for decades’ worth of interest and investment in what has become a large and active network of fly-in communities.
Today, there are more than 600 fly-in communities in the United States, with the heaviest concentration in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Texas and Washington. Spruce Creek is the largest fly-in community. The aviation lifestyle has even spread internationally to Canada, South Africa and Costa Rica.
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