By BILL WALKER
An airpark developer who makes presentations annually at Sun ’n Fun and Oshkosh says potential airpark residents need to do a better job of asking questions and evaluating the merits of flying-oriented communities before buying a lot or a home and hangar.
Ron Heidebrink, who said his Hardee Airpark near Myrtle Beach, S.C., has continued to expand during the recession, offers advice to prospective airpark residents based upon his experience and feedback offered by attendees at his presentations.
“I like to give people a checklist of about 15 items that need to be rated in making a decision on airpark living,” said Heidebrink. He credits Living With Your Plane publisher and renowned airpark expert Dave Sclair with providing many of the items on his checklist. “My form asks seminar participants to rank prospective airparks for their quality of location, weather, cost, convenience, area entertainment, security, educational opportunities and schools, sports opportunities, local government, airpark covenants, neighbors, future of the area, convenience and attractiveness of the airpark for relatives. Ask the tough questions on these subjects and you’ll usually have a gut feeling about whether or not the place is right for you.”
“My approach at the seminars in Lakeland and Oshkosh is not to push our airpark, even though I’m quite proud of it and its advantages,” Heidebrink said during a recent interview. “Most important, I want people to decide if airpark living is for them and the things I’ve listed are those generally agreed to be among the most important factors for selecting one airpark over another.”
“We usually get 20 to 30 people at an air show presentation,” he continued. “I always attended Dave Sclair’s presentation on Living With Your Plane and a presentation on Aviation Homes. I’ve always tried to work together with everyone so that as many people can be exposed to a discussion of airparks as possible. I don’t have to specifically sell them on our airpark because I know that some of the people listening will eventually contact us and come for a visit. I’ll have my chance to convince them when they’re here on the airpark.”
Heidebrink said a big mistake people make is that they think they can make a decision about an airpark after visiting for just a few hours.
“I tell them, whether you’re coming to Hardee Airpark or going to an airpark in Florida or Georgia or wherever it may be, to spend several days there,” he said. “That’s the best way to get that gut feeling. Go around and visit the towns. Even something as simple as local talk radio can help. Because the radio will have people calling in, talking about something on their mind about the local community. You’re not going to get that by watching national TV.
“Go to a county or city council meeting,” he continued. “They meet two or three times a month. The information you get there will be useful because there may be something happening there that you will not like, whether it be a huge new development going in right next to you or a new tax that they’re going to bring about. If there are lots and houses in the airpark for resale determine why people are leaving.
“You need to be sure you have all your professional needs taken care of, such as specialized medical care. If you want to expand on your education make sure there are institutions available for that. You shouldn’t be driving 15 to 20 miles to get your car serviced or to go to your dentist. These things need to be within a reasonable distance.
“I tell people to ask themselves how their friends and relatives will feel about visiting. Most of these people are not flyers. You need to have other things to do for all members of the family and relatives. Not everybody will want to see airplanes. There are other things to do in life.”
One extremely important question is who owns the runway, he emphasized. “You don’t want to be caught in a situation where the runway could be sold off,” he said. “That has happened on many occasions where people have built and didn’t have control of the runway. It gets sold for a golf course or other development.”
“Some owners have the right to taxi their planes from their development through the fence to a public airport,” he added. “What if the city or county decides to close that airport? I would not take somebody’s word that the airport will remain open. I would want a lawyer to check that the runway could not be sold off or closed.”
“Use my point system or make your own, but ask the questions and make comparisons between airparks,” Heidebrink continued. “I am always happy to mail the checklist and information on the presentation about airpark living free of charge to anyone interested. The whole idea is to give you a baseline so that when you leave one airpark and visit another one you’ve got something to compare it to.”