March 19, 2004  


Fly Away Home

By Linda DuShane White

A few years ago, Burl Skaggs (SEM) and his wife Carol decided to find a new way of life after she retired. Determined to stay in the West, they traveled to his home state of Montana, and then from New Mexico to Washington state.
The Skaggs shown with their 1958 Bonanza in front of their Cameron Park home. The large garage is actually a hangar. (Photo courtesy of Burl Skaggs)

During this odyssey a friend gave Skaggs an article on airparks, residential areas with access to a runway. In California alone, there are about 20 airparks, but most are either small (4 or 5 houses) or remote.

Let Skaggs tell it: “So just as a fluke we went for a drive up to the Gold Country and stopped in Cameron Park and looked around. It’s different because the streets are wide and people have airplanes in their driveways.” Carol had formerly lived around Sacramento and El Dorado Hills so returning to the area appealed to her. They bought their lot in 2000, got commercial house plans which they customized, and then built “twice the lot, twice the house.” The Skaggs went from an ‘okay house’ in a changing, not-so-neighborly neighborhood to a custom house in a friendly neighborhood, where people start off with airplanes as common ground.

Skaggs said, “We already know more people casually in one year than we did in 16 years.” They moved into their new home in March 2003. “I’m very much at the mercy of the weather gods,” avers Skaggs. `I’ll just fly to work’ sounds great and works 70 percent of the time. The rest of the time, Skaggs makes a 100 mile, two-hour drive to work and camps out at his mother’s house in the Bay Area.

When commuting by plane, Skaggs taxis up the street from his house to the runway, spends 35 minutes flying to the Palo Alto Airport, swaps his plane for the car he leaves parked there, then drives 20 minutes to SLAC.

Skaggs owns a 1958 Beech Bonanza, model J35, which cruises at 175 mph. An avid flyer, he took lessons at the age of 16 and got his first license on his 17th birthday, “the earliest legal time you can have a license,” he says. His abilities as a mechanical engineer have come into play keeping this and his former planes in good shape.

According to Skaggs, his Bonanza is still pretty young, with about 6,000 hours on it. The engine gets rebuilt periodically depending on inspection and its time and service. An inspection is required once a year for a private pilot. “The most flying I’ve done is in this Bonanza now that I’m commuting,” said Skaggs. “It’s fun. The view changes every day, the time of year changes it, the time the sun comes up.” It’s never the same twice and Skaggs has beautiful photos to prove it.

Skaggs also has a commercial license to fly helicopters, which he flew for a while just for fun. He loved it, but can no longer afford it. “Airplanes,” he says, “are not cheap, but you take the cost of flying airplanes and triple it, that’s helicopters.”

For those interested in becoming pilots and owning a plane, Skaggs said he would encourage people to look into the price of older airplanes, which is comparable to a new car. For those with some mechanical ability, the upkeep isn’t too bad.

There are still about 20 unbuilt lots remaining in Cameron Park, so if you want to commute by plane from in the rolling foothills of the Sierra Mountains you, too, could fly away home.

For more information on Cameron Airpark Estates see:



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Last update Thursday March 18, 2004 by Emily Ball