Everybody knows the drill. When you go to buy a fancy house in Palm Beach it will have a swimming pool, a tennis court, a three (or four or 14) car garage, a beautiful lawn, a water view, lots of bathrooms and bedrooms, a gym and perhaps a putting green. Or maybe a nine-hole golf course and a stable.
Well, how about going one better and having an airplane hangar? Yes, you can be in your kitchen and on one side open up a door and two steps down there’s your garage with your car (or cars) in it. Or on the other side, open up another door, step down and you’re in your hanger with your jet or chopper. Or maybe two or three.
Yes, you can do that. It’s in Palm Beach County at Wellington, where some years ago, the founder of that town, C. Oliver Wellington, liked the idea of having his own airplane hanger right out his bedroom window with his Cessna inside. Traffic? Forget it. Here’s the truly regal way to get around. He teamed up with a few other people who owned airplanes — Guerry Strilling and Arthur Elisson — bought four hundred acres of open land suitable upon which to build a runway, and there it was.
He called it the Wellington Aero Club. It was when Ronald Reagan was president. 1983. And the town let him do it. Following all the rules, of course. Have bright rows of lights on the sides of the runway that Wellington could flip on in the cockpit as he went into his approach pattern. Have something like the remote control others use to open their garage door to get himself swallowed up into his hangar so his Piper Cub, or Comanche or Airbus could get out of the rain. And then next time when he’d be ready to go, he’d gas up (a shared on-site private gas pump) and taxi out to the 4,000-foot runway and five minutes later be climbing up through the clouds to be off to visit his cousin in Tallahassee.
When this man and his friends first opened the Aero Club, which is what they called it, they all knew who was home and who was not by the particular sound of one of the resident’s aircraft as it roared by. Oh, did I tell they all lived along one or the other side of the runway? Talk about a view.
Today the Aero Club is a bit more complicated. It’s now a whole community of people’s homes — 240 of them. And not everybody has an airplane. Some people just like watching the planes come in and out. It’s sort of like living along a golf course fairway. With the occasional whine of an airplane engine instead of a good three wood thwock to the green.
And it has a clubhouse with a dining room and kitchen, a large catering hall for residents who will reserve it for weddings or bar mitzvahs and there’s a bar and a billiard table.
And there is a fee to park there even with that. It’s $200 an hour in the aircraft parking lot. You can afford it.