Mickey Stateler has been interested in the residential airpark concept for some time. To be more precise, the corporate pilot and longtime Piper Twin Comanche owner first dipped his toes into the airpark lifestyle in 2007.
For much of the time since, Stateler has been a part-time fly-in community resident alongside his wife, Chan, son, Logan, and their dog, Joey. At present, the family splits their time between a typical subdivision residence in Fort Worth, Texas, and a runway-adjacent home at Lost Mine Airpark (MO56) in Theodosia, Missouri.
Their choosing of this airpark over others in the country was the byproduct of a simple flight planning calculation, as well as an initial bout of hangar home heartbreak.
“It’s a good story. I grew up in Pennsylvania on a windy lake in a mountain environment and kind of wanted to reproduce that with our child, who at the time was 1 [year old]. So, I took a sectional chart and made a two-hour circle around it,” Stateler recalled.
“Then I said to myself, ‘Where in two hours can I find mountains, as well as a clear water lake that had airpark abilities.’”
Out toward the upper portion of this range circle, the Missouri Ozarks were an option that Stateler thought could satisfy his wishes. After some searching, the couple found a property that they felt would be perfect.
“We had originally bought a lot at an airpark that was in development on western Bull Shoals Lake. When we bought into that in 2007, they had dirt movers out, [and] had plowed a 5,000-foot area to build a runway and a fully plotted-out airpark.”
Stateler noted that the runway was never finished, and the airpark’s marketed vision never came to fruition. As a result, the family was flying their airplane into Branson and then driving an hour to get to their on-property cabin. “This was not the plan,” he added, recalling that they did the flight and driving combination for several years.
Despite his initial airpark choice being a flop, Stateler wasn’t deterred from living alongside his aircraft. Fortunately, he was already familiar with a more than suitable backup option in the area.
“You know, in 2007, I had also met with the president of the Lost Mine Airpark HOA and flew out there. It seemed good but we were being told a whole bunch of stuff about this new airpark, how much better it was going to be and we kind of bought off on it. And we regret that. During our seven years at the other place, Lost Mine was always in the back of my mind.”
Since deciding to make the move to Lost Mine Airpark, Stateler has invested a lot of effort in the community’s continued success. He is now president of the HOA and owns several lots that he purchased from “the airpark matriarch,” Mary Newton, when she decided to move on from the community. Newton’s late husband, Grant Finley, was an initial driving force behind the community, which at the time was called the Ozark Country Estates.
An original brochure (circa 1970s) from the development touted the ability for pilots and others to “get away from it all.” The ability to relax and take life a little slower has been attractive for Stateler and something that initially caught his attention about the community.
The aforementioned four-page pamphlet for the residential airpark began by noting, “The day is bathed in sunlight filtered through a leafy screen that seems to always be kept in motion by delightful refreshing breezes. The lake is so clear and blue that you doubt at first that it can be real. Thousands of delightful caves await your exploration. The air is so free of pollution that the night sky sparkles with the light from a thousand stars that appear but an arm’s reach away. A home nestled in the quiet woods of these gently rolling Ozark hills can bring to you and your family a remarkable new ‘way of life’ whether for vacations or retirement.”
The name Lost Mine reportedly comes from a mining lease in the area that operated the majority of the 20th century. But there was no record of its owner on file.
That said, “lost” isn’t such an uncommon phrase in the area, with little known residential treasures nestled along the lake’s hundreds of miles of shoreline and in its wooded areas.
“It’s a great place to be, but you got to want to be there. You’re not going to luck across it or come across it by accident. I kind of did, but through the sectional chart. But you’re not going to drive by it on accident or anything like that. You kind of have to know that it’s there and want to be remote,” Stateler said.
With Lost Mine Airpark being on Bull Shoals Lake, ease of access to water sports of several kinds is a draw for many residents of the area.
“I’m not sure where the term Caribbean of the Midwest started, but it has to do with the water here that is so clear. The lake that Lost Mine is on is the last in a chain of four lakes, so water starts in the White River and then goes into Beaver Lake. Then it goes into Table Rock, Taneycomo, and then it goes into Bull Shoals. It gets filtered so much through all of these lakes that Bull Shoals is a super clear water lake. There is a lot of diving there and some places to get certified,” Stateler explained.
While the corporate pilot’s airpark experience changed course from his initial heading, Lost Mine has become more than a second place of residence.
“We really fell in love with the area and the locals there. It’s different from one side of the lake to the other. It’s just a completely different class of people who are really friendly and everyone in the neighborhood has always been willing to help out with our transition. I have another ten years flying [for work] yet, but we are planning retirement at Lost Mine. There is a great group of folks, and we love it there.”
Stateler continued, noting that with his job’s schedule and an aircraft ownership transition it may not be until this fall that he flies back to the community, “We’ve been there for five years now and until a few weeks ago, until I sold it, the Twin Comanche has been our primary transport to the airpark. The market is hot right now and I had bought a Seneca last year to redo completely with a new interior and new avionics. I’m currently working on that now with my IA, but it’s a way bigger project than I had envisioned. But I wanted to get out of the Comanche in a high market.”
With an initial hangar home heartbreak, Stateler’s perseverance enabled him to experience the fruits of airpark living, albeit on a part-time basis. As a byproduct, he and his family may experience what original marketing materials for Old Country Estates touted, “When people come to Lost Mine, they come to stay.”