Keith Barr, an instrument rated pilot and aircraft owner, just spent his third holiday season at his home in Flying Eagle Airpark (77NV) in Reno, Nevada. He reports that living at an airpark is considerably different from living anywhere else.
Prior to building his dream hangar home in the community several years ago, Barr had eyed the airpark as a potential place to enjoy life alongside his aircraft.
“I call Flying Eagle Airpark the best kept secret. About 20 years ago we moved to northern Nevada, and I was flying a Piper Malibu at the time and was looking for a place to hangar it. A source actually had this airport on the map, and we couldn’t find it. We looked for a couple of homes out in the area here, knowing that the airport was nearby, but never found it. We ultimately found another airport nearby but wasn’t able to find this airpark. We wound up buying a home elsewhere that had hangar availability nearby, where we kept our airplanes for a long time.”
The reported airpark was always in the back of his mind though, which at the time was not as apparent to the passerby as it is today.
“My wife and I kept thinking about this place and were riding Harleys one day out to Pyramid Lake, which is about 10 minutes north of here. We saw a sign alongside the highway that said, ‘Airpark lots for sale.’ We hadn’t ever seen that sign before, so we followed the road in and sure enough, there was a big steel gate. But there was nothing built here yet. Talking to a real estate finance contact of mine shortly after this ride, I mentioned this development and he said, ‘Oh, I own that airpark!’” Barr recalled.
The Barrs would go on to purchase a lot in the community. But they didn’t build a home there right away. They wanted their kids to finish school first and move out of the house before the couple started their airpark adventure. Unfortunately, as timing would be, their previous house was a tough sell on the slow real estate market at the time. So, they continued living the way they had before.
“Once our kids [were] out of school, we [would] sell our home in Smith Valley, which is just east of Tahoe, and then build a hangar home here. Then 2007 hit, our youngest went off to college, and we couldn’t sell our house because of the real estate crash. We wound up sitting on our lot for quite a while. Eventually, in 2018, we finally sold the house and started building our hangar home.”
Once they arrived at this stage, the couple had already become acquainted with both the community, as well as some of their future neighbors.
Barr explained how their neighbors helped them out before even officially moving into the neighborhood, “By then, there were three other hangars that had been built here. We happened to meet the family at the end of the runway, the Watkins, and we all hit it off. They’re super nice people and let us stay in our RV inside of their hangar for about a year while we were building our home. We built an 80-foot by 120-foot hangar, with a three-story apartment on one end of it, and moved to Flying Eagle Thanksgiving 2019.”
Unsurprisingly, Barr speaks highly of both his neighbors and the northern Nevada airpark. Living there has been a great way for the longtime pilot to become more ingrained in the aviation community.
“I have an Aerostar 601P, that’s been converted to a 700, that I bought about six years ago. I also have a 2005 CubCrafters Top Cub, that my son and I actually purchased from the North Carolina Department of Forestry, who was the only owner previous to us. We went out there and flew it all the way back here to Nevada; it was a lot of fun,” Barr Stated.
“There are two paved runways at Flying Eagle, 16/34 is 4,700-feet by 35-feet, and 7/25 is 4,300-feet by 25-feet. My neighbor, Lance [Watkins] has a Cessna 170 that’s modified with bigger tires and engines. He also has a Cessna 195 project that he’s restoring. Dennis, across the runway from us, has a Lancair IV-P turbine. And Pete, has a Cessna 421, a Lancair IV piston, and two canards. We do a little bit of hangar flying here. And a couple of times a month some of us will fly down for breakfast or do something else together.”
Not only is there a good mix of aircraft (and collectible cars at the airpark), there are a number of easy-to-reach aerial getaways in the area. These destinations have both paved and unpaved runways.
“The area surrounding us here is fun for sure. The airport kind of sits in a bowl and there used to be, probably a hundred thousand years ago, a river that ran through here. So the airpark itself is sitting in the lowest part of the valley here, but it’s a pretty flat spot called the Palomino Valley. We’re about seven minutes, by plane, to Reno-Stead (KRTS) and we have a couple of small mountain ranges nearby. Then once you get into the Sierras, there are a lot of great places to fly to. There are places like Quincy, California, which has a nice little restaurant downtown that we will fly to. There’s also Nervino Airport (O02) and Sierraville (O79), which are a couple of mountain airports nearby here, as further examples.”
But for those that want to stay clear of charted runways, there is ample opportunity to do so near Reno as well, Barr elaborated.
“Some of the most interesting terrain surrounds the airpark, with backcountry access to dozens of great off-airport landing sites. The Flying Cowboys do a lot of work out here and fly all over the area. There are all kinds of places, like hilltops, dry lake beds, and other stuff to land at. Dead Cow, which is where they do the High Sierra Fly-in, is just over a small mountain north of us and is about 10 minutes by plane.”
Not only is the surrounding geography noteworthy and an attraction for many pilots, but the airpark’s layout also makes it unique from others in the area, Barr contends. He says that this particular fly-in community is special for these reasons, and many more. But it’s one of those kinds of places you have to experience firsthand to really get the feel for the burgeoning fly-in community, he adds.