Wilkinson Ranch Airport Features Wedding Venue, Short-Term Rentals

The family-run property offers a lot to pilots looking for a place to celebrate or stop for the night.

An aerial view of Wilkinson Ranch Airport (55WA) in Yakima, Washington. [Courtesy: Landon Wilkinson]

Wilkinson Ranch Airport (55WA) in Yakima, Washington, has been around since the early 1990s. Throughout much of its history, the airstrip has been primarily used by the Wilkinson family and friends. But in recent years, others have begun landing at the 2,050-foot-long asphalt runway to attend weddings and stay in one of several rental accommodations.

Landon Wilkinson, who became a pilot in 2020, provided details surrounding the airstrip’s background and what makes the land surrounding it so special.  

“My dad has been a pilot all of my life and has owned several different airplanes,” said Wilkinson. “He acquired the property in 1991, and the airstrip was put in within a short period of time after that. For a while, it was grass, then he lengthened and paved it. And it’s funny. The name of the airstrip [a sign observed from the road] says ‘Landon Strip.’ It’s technically named after me, and I was the first of my dad’s three sons to land on the runway.”

Wilkinson now flies a Mooney M20E, which he owns with his younger brother and another partner. The property’s airstrip is a central figure in many of their aerial adventures but also for those who fly in for celebrations. 

Oakshire Estate & Airfield is a wedding venue, although it was never designed intentionally for that purpose,” said Wilkinson. “My dad has planted a couple thousand trees on the property since he bought it, and the long, tree-lined driveway is just spectacular, as is the estate in general. Every year, they are refining the property…We have had weddings there over the years, but then several years ago, they opened it up to book a limited number of weddings there each year.”

Not only can people fly into weddings, they don’t have far to go from the ramp to the dance floor. 

“We have a lot of weddings that make use of the runway, which is basically 100 feet from the venue’s front door,” he said. “We have had people fly in, where the groomsmen will come and then walk up the aisle [after getting out of the airplane]. It’s been fun to have those things working together here.”

The 30-year-old private pilot saw the success that his parents had with the wedding venue and sought to bring other equally unique offerings to the property. He started by converting a 100-year-old barn that sat derelict for many years. While an ambitious project, he had been doing renovations and house flipping since he was a kid. 

“I purchased about 50 acres from my dad, which is southeast of the same road,” he said. “The first project of ours, in 2019, was the barn conversion. The shipping container home was completed about two years ago now. We have a really good view of the Yakima Ridge and thought that it would make a really good short-term rental experience for people. So, we basically did the shipping container and the barn conversion ourselves and put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into them. But I think that they turned out pretty special.”

Both the barn and shipping container are available for short-term rental. And while Wilkinson is proud of the rentals and has received rave reviews, he admits that the airstrip is one of his favorite aspects of his family’s property. 

“So, when you’re coming into land, it’s really a one-way-in airstrip, because of these pretty tall trees around the house on the western end,” he said. “Then there’s a wind turbine and a cell tower in the vicinity, about a quarter mile north. They’re not at all really in your way, but just something to be aware of. And the runway is wider at the outset. On the eastern end, I would say it’s probably about 30 feet [wide] and then it reduces to around 25 or so feet [wide].”

Wilkinson’s time spent marketing his short-term rentals has demonstrated an issue within that industry. He believes aviators are in perhaps the greatest position to take advantage of unbooked nights on short-term notice.  

“Part of the motivation for starting [booking platform website] Hostshare had to do with being a pilot,” he said. “As pilots we are usually more at the mercy of the weather, so we are often required to have a lot of flexibility as it comes to lodging. With a lot of the short-term rentals, the cancellation policy is usually nonrefundable, or at least a portion of it. Hostshare makes it much more economical to travel last minute with your family, if you own an Airbnb. That was part of the motivation.”

Wilkinson pointed out that sharing time equally among the partners in his Mooney fortunately hasn’t been an issue yet. But the process of sharing time in the asset with others was another component of his ongoing inspiration for his new website. Several fly-in destinations are already on the platform, including Beaver Creek in Maine.

Grant Boyd is a private pilot with eight years of experience in aviation business, including marketing, writing, customer service, and sales. Boyd holds a Bachelor's and a Master's of Business Administration degree, both from Wichita State University, and a Doctor of Education degree from Oklahoma State University. He was chosen as a NBAA Business Aviation "Top 40 Under 40" award recipient in 2020.

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