Tavernaero Airport Park (FA81) is a residential airpark in the Florida Keys, located at mile marker 90 on the Overseas Highway. The 2,175-foot-long turf runway has been around since the early 1960s and presently boasts nearly 50 homes that surround it.
Allen Wood was introduced to the airport as a kid, and the airplanes flying there were the early inspiration for him to become a pilot.
“I was born and raised in the Keys, so my earliest memories of Tavernaero, the airport, was that it was just a grass strip with one or two houses on it and a boat basin,” Wood said. “I remember as a kid riding my bike through here and being intrigued with the airplanes. Back then, it was open and not a gated community. I never forgot about them and would look up at every airplane flying by.”
Not only would Wood make his boyhood dream of becoming a pilot a reality, but he would also eventually call the airport home. He said this year marks his 35th year of living at Tavernaero Airport Park during which time he has owned three different homes in the fly-in community.
“When my kids were young, I had built a house elsewhere in Islamorada,” Wood said. “Once I sold it, I had heard about a house that was a fairly good buy here at the airport, and that was my first house here. At the time, I was already a pilot and flying a Cessna 182—so living here at the airport worked out great. Now I’m in my third house in the same neighborhood. I always thought that I would love to live here, and it actually worked out!”
Living at the airpark is a relatively unique opportunity. While there are a considerable number of homes that surround the runway, according to Wood, it’s rare that one is listed for sale.
“Like I said, I’ve lived here for a long time and it’s a great place to live,” he said. “My current home is in a nice location. It’s the only lot that’s on the water—as well as the runway. When a property here goes on the market, they go quickly. There was a house recently that went on the market, and it sold in 18 hours. It was a brief bidding war and then it sold. They go fast, for sure. Sporadically, houses will go up for sale and what people down here do is they will buy an older house then knock it down. That’s not just in the airport but all of the communities down here because there are limited building permits available.
“So, you have to go through a process of ‘building allocation,’ and the easiest way to do that is to buy an existing house. They will buy one to either remodel or knock it down to build a new one.”
Wood pointed out why he thinks the airpark community is as popular as it is—-its “proximity to paradise.” Not only is this section of the Keys highly regarded for fair weather and an array of recreational opportunities, Tavernaero is a quick flight from notable tropical destinations.
“You are very close to the Bahamas, and you are just a hop to anywhere there, pretty much,” he said. “So that’s one of the primary flying destinations for those living at Tavernaero. Just a little bit further away is Grand Cayman and Mexico, as well. In my [Cessna] 182, I used to fly to Mexico quite a bit, and it would only take about two hours and 10 minutes. It couldn’t have been much longer than that, anyway, and it also takes about two hours to fly to Grand Cayman. You can get anywhere in the Bahamas in probably an hour to two hours, depending on where you are going—since they cover a pretty big area. A lot of the people that live here focus on these types of flights.”
Not only are the professional and personal backgrounds of those who live in the fly-in community varied, so are the types of airplanes they pilot.
“You have to live here to fly in on a regular basis, but guests are welcome as guests of homeowners,” said Wood, who owns a Daher Kodiak 100 and shares ownership in a Piper J-3 Cub with seven other Tavernaero residents. “But Tavernaero Park Airport is private.” Most people that live here have a plane, and it basically consists of the whole Cessna collection of singles. The only twin that we have on the field right now is a Cessna 310. We have a brand new 206 that just came in and a new 182 coming at a later time. There is also a 172, as well as a couple of other 182s. We also have an A36 Bonanza, an RV that’s getting built, and a couple of other kit planes as well.
“Pretty much every house has an airplane, although we have had people that have bought in this neighborhood just for the marina.”
Not only can residents quickly reach other countries by air, but this is one of the few fly-in communities where boats are also a part of the equation.
“The association, or the airport, has its own marina with probably 50 boat slips in it,” he said. “So, all of the people that live here have a boat, or have the ability to, in the marina. The dues are extremely competitive at something around $1,250 a year per lot, funds which are used to maintain both the runway and the marina. It’s extremely reasonable for an aviation community. I lived at another one before where it was almost that much every month for their [homeowners association] dues.”