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When Main Street is a Runway
Spruce Creek is the world's largest "airpark," or fly-in community, where half the homes have hangars and airplanes have the right of way.
/ Updated 15 PHOTOS
Remington and Michelle Esters take awalkÑas Brian Boucher passes by in an amphibious biplaneÑalong Cessna Drive in Spruce Creek, the largest Òfly-inÓ community in the world. About half of the neighborhoodÕs 1400 homes have their own hangars, and, alongside traditional roads, residents enjoy 14 miles of taxiways and a 4000' military-grade runway. The US Navy built the airfield and used it for training during World War II. Following the war, the strip was "pretty much abandoned,Ó according to resident and real estate broker Carlos Bravo. But in the 1970s, investors won approval from the city of Daytona Beach and started building homes on the property.— John Brecher / NBCNews.com
Aviation infuses daily life in this neighborhood, where Marlene Smith and her friend John Criscolo prepare for a flight in Criscolo's Cessna Skyhawk 172. Smith, also a pilot, sold her plane a couple years ago but missed having an aircraft parked at her place, so she offered the spot to Criscolo."I can see planes landing from my bathroom window,Ó said Smith, who has lived in Spruce Creek since 1998ÒSome people might not like it but if you're a wing nut you do."— John Brecher / NBCNews.com
Bruce and Ann Williams watch as a float plane taxis past their front porch on a Sunday afternoon. Homeowners are forbidden from parking trailers or cars in front of their properties, according to Bruce, but airplanes are OK. He and his wife knew they had to move from a regular neighborhood to an airpark when they started building an airplane in their garage. "We had a wing in one bedroom and [we] were running out of space."— John Brecher / NBCNews.com
Entrepreneur Talon Rayne rinses soap from an Eclipse EA500 private jet while cleaning it for a client. "When I read the regulation that aircraft have to be cleaned for all inspections," said Rayne, "a light bulb went off." He started an aircraft detailing business and chose to focus on an airpark community rather than traveling between airports. He found a house for rent in Spruce Creek and a market for his work. "I moved here just over a year ago with about 50 bucks in my pocket.Ó Now he says he takes care of about 100 planes.— John Brecher / NBCNews.com
Tim Plunkett pushes a Fokker DR1 back into its hangar, which is attached to his home like a traditional car garage. The triplane is an exact replica of the World War I fighter flown by Manfred von Richthofen, better known as the Red Baron. Plunkett, a retired Air Force and Delta Airlines pilot, said that flying the Fokker is like going back to 1917 when flying machines were far less evolved. "Aerodynamically, Just about everything about this plane is wrong," he said. "The airplane is constantly trying to kill you."— John Brecher / NBCNews.com
Dieter Canje, who sells polished parts from scrapped airplanes, sits amid some of his favorite projects. Pushing up the ceiling panel at left is a propeller blade from a KC-97 aerial refueling tanker. On the wall behind Canje is the spinner from a B-52 Stratofortress jet engine. A rough landing in a T-6 Texan training airplane warped the blade at right. Said Canje: "Bent props generate some excitement. They have a story to tell."— John Brecher / NBCNews.com
Parked near the runway is a TBM Avenger, a WWII bomber made to drop 2,000-lb. torpedoes near enemy ships. Future president George H.W. Bush was shot down while flying one of these bombers over Chi Chi Jima in 1944. Though this airplane was a guest at Spruce Creek, many pilots who flew them during the war learned to land them on the US Navy airstrip that evolved into this neighborhood.— John Brecher / NBCNews.com
A house party unfolds in Spruce Creek, but the real attraction for many residents is in a hangar behind it, where Brian Kelly is building a Van's RV-8 from a kit. Kelly is the first person to use a radial engine in the plane, a significant modification requiring him to custom-build parts. During the nine years he's spent so far on the project, Kelly said he's leaned on the skills and tools of fellow pilots in the community, many of whom have also built their own airplanes: "If you can't find it somewhere in the world, someone here can build it for you."— John Brecher / NBCNews.com
Jeff Michael cleans ÒObession,Ó his P-51 Mustang, during a pre-flight check at his home hangar. A model of the plane hangs from the ceiling, and another sits in the car in the foreground. "There's a difference between flying a fighter and being a fighter pilot," said Michael, a former airline pilot who bought the World War II fighter almost three decades ago. "It's fun to go up and fly it, but I'm not getting shot at."— John Brecher / NBCNews.com
Pat and Claudia Delcado, Sheila Hill and Bill and Jackie Gogel wait for their lunch at the Downwind Cafe, located on the corner of Cessna Blvd. and Beech Blvd., former runways in the old naval airfield that now serve as roads and taxiways. There are 14 miles of taxiways in the neighborhood, most of which don't intersect with the neighborhood's roads, helping to keep cars and planes separated. Where they do mingle, airplanes always have the right of way.— John Brecher / NBCNews.com
Susie and Paul Holmes wave from atop the Holmes JetMobile, a whimsical vehicle built by Paul from a golf cart and a used Boeing 747 engine cowling. A 747 captain himself, Holmes put 1000 hours into the project "for the good of mankind," and now uses it in the communityÕs annual Toy Parade, among other festivities. The vehicle includes a sound system and a kegerator, according to Holmes, who salvaged the engine after 110,000 hours of flying time, the equivalent of 2300 circumnavigations of the Earth.— John Brecher / NBCNews.com
Spruce Creek pilots fly in formation past a crowd of spectators alongside the runway on a Saturday afternoon. Residents gather weekly for "Gaggle Flights," grouping themselves into formations based on the speed of their airplanes.— John Brecher / NBCNews.com
Ellie Mott walks past a hangar home's driveway with Rocco, a Malinois retired from sniffing luggage at Miami's airport. Rocco is one of over a hundred dogs Mott walks in Spruce Creek. Asked whether any of them chase aircraft, she shook her head. "I keep a tight hold on them when airplanes go by."— John Brecher / NBCNews.com
Several resident pilots told a reporter that for aviation buffs who've found a home in Spruce Creek, going to heaven is "a lateral transfer." Keeping the earthly dimension of the transfer short is a graveyard near the runway. "I joke that this is a cradle-to-grave community," said Carlos Bravo, adding that "you don't have to leave ever because we have our own cemetery."— John Brecher / NBCNews.com
A Cessna 172 glows in a condo's plane port at the end of a day.— John Brecher / NBCNews.com