The next time you go to the airport, keep your eyes open for a hangar that is different from the others. Perhaps it’s larger than those that surround it. Or sports a different shade of beige, tan, or gray. Maybe the hangar door is half open, with your dream airplane peeking out—impatiently waiting to take to the skies.
One difference that you typically will not spot at your local municipal airport is a timber frame hangar. That is something the team at Homestead Timber Frames is looking to change.
Andrew Bourret, the company’s CEO and a retired Navy SEAL commander, said the detail-oriented process of timber frame construction is perfect for hangars. Bourret contends that introducing this type of structure to the homogenous mix of metal hangars at airports will prove not only to be more aesthetically pleasing but functional as well.
“If aviation is your religion, why not build a church around it?” Bourret said. “Large, exposed, heavy timber beams put the natural grain patterns, texture, and color variations on display, adding an organic warmth wherever they are used. Each timber beam reflects the passion and care with which the timber frame was constructed, adding that beautiful ‘wow factor.’ Natural checking and proud wooden pegs lend themselves to the euphoric feeling associated with the enduring style and artistry of timber framing.”
The “form-versus-function” debate is often brought up with this type of structure, since people have grown so accustomed to steel buildings.
“We all need a roof over our head, and buildings to protect our things,” Bourret said. “What form will those buildings take? If you care about how the spaces that you occupy make you feel, then we can create a space to create those feelings. Wood is warm and inviting. Wood invokes feelings other building material cannot.”
Bourret also briefly highlighted some of the purported tangible benefits that timber structures have compared to conventional structures. His explanation included longevity, an efficient build process, eco-friendly aspects, energy efficiency, and a favorable fire rating.
Aside from a timber frame structure’s outward appearance, one of its most striking elements is the build process. Bourret said a 50-foot-by-60-foot hangar project that the company recently completed was assembled on the ground in one day. It was then raised into place by crane in 18 hours.
“Timber frame structures are quicker to install than most conventional buildings,” he said. “Because the timber frame is cut, trial fit, and stacked before being shipped to the job site, time on site is cut down tremendously. When structural insulated panels are used with timber framing, it can take days as opposed to weeks to ‘dry in’ a structure.”
This video provides an overview of the pre-construction process, including the trial fit of the hangar – prior to it being transported to the job site.
While the company has been creating structures for nearly 20 years, hangars are a new introduction to its portfolio. Although structurally and construction-wise, they are very similar to other types of timber frame structures.
“My friend David Auxier built a strip in front of his home,” Bourret said. “One day while visiting, I suggested he build a beautiful timber frame hangar and ditch the metal box. He agreed. He could see the ultimate toy garage for his hot rod and airplane. [Timber structures] are unlike anything else because it’s flat out stunning.”
The second timber frame hangar that the company built wasn’t for a client but rather for thousands of potential clients. Homestead Timber Frames brought a quarter-scale model of the same hangar that it recently erected in Idaho to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh in July. The hangar mock-up was reportedly a hit with attendees and proved to be a conversation starter between them and the company, leading to a deposit and several dozen serious leads.
A pilot himself, Bourret hopes that a third of the timber framer’s business will soon be dedicated to aviation structures. Right now, the company employs seven craftsmen, and the majority of its business is custom homes and outdoor pavilions.
“We are really interested in working with clients that are interested in doing something different,” he said. “That’s the culture of our company. Our guys pride themselves in manufacturing large structures the way they were done before the industrial revolution.
“We named the first hangars after members of our team [The ‘Kirkwood,’ the ‘New Dawn,’ the ‘Dennis,’ and the ‘Javan’), who were the inspirations for the designs. Homestead Timber Frames is a family first and foremost of like-minded people. Like a [Navy] SEAL platoon, each member is highly educated, skilled, and dedicated to the art of heavy timber structures built using pre-industrial revolution technology.”
With the company based in Crossville, Tennessee, Bourret didn’t have to look far for skilled hands specialized in the art of timber work.
“We recently increased our production capability and staff by two,” he said. “Most of the guys here have a bachelor’s [degree] in furniture manufacturing and did an apprenticeship at the Appalachian Center for Craft at Tennessee Tech University. After that, it takes about a year for them to get up to speed on how to do timber frame. And it takes years to ingrain the skills required to learn how to design and create. Therefore, we support institutions committed to keeping the art alive. For instance, we’ve had interns from the American College of the Building Arts come to Homestead Timber Frames two years running.”
This new saga in his professional life is as designed, since Bourret has always sought to be remarkable to others. He aims to bring this mindset to other pilots through custom-designed timber structures for their aircraft.
“Early in life, I determined that I wanted to live a life that was far from ordinary,” he said. “I wanted to do meaningful work and have meaningful relationships with like-minded, exceptional people. I found that in the SEAL teams, and Homestead Timber Frames is the civilian version. Our clients want exceptional homes, hangars, castles, and pavilions. They want to have a meaningful relationship with like-minded, exceptional people that care about the spaces they intend to occupy. That’s our team. That’s Homestead Timber Frames.”