Choosing the Right Airport to Call Home
By Jason Blair, ATP, CFI-I, MEI-I, FAA Designated Pilot Examiner | March 2015
Finding the right place to call home for your airplane actually plays a big part
in whether or not you will use the airplane. But the nearest airport to your home
may not necessarily be the best. There are the all-important issues of how well
it will be protected, and what types of services are available to keep your plane
Here are a few things to think about when you are looking at which airport and what
type of storage is right for your aircraft.
Not all airports have hangars available or depending on where you live, they may
not be needed. The main options include:
- Ramp Tie Downs
- Covered Parking
- Community or FBO Hangar Rental Space
- Private T- or Box-Hangars
- Privately Owned Hangars
Typically the price goes up relative to the space you need and how private the hangar
is (think community hangars vs. your own private box- or T-hangar), but the benefits
also change with different types of hangars. Personal hangars may allow storage
of “other stuff” that pilots collect also and community or FBO hangar rental space
may require moving of other aircraft out of the way when you want to fly (an FBO
may do this for you in some cases). When you are looking, determine what kind of
storage you need for your plane and other aviation “stuff” as well as determining
what kind of protection your plane needs. If you are in northern climates or places
where there are heavy rainstorms, coverage may be very important.
The services available at airports vary and can affect how you use your aircraft.
Is fuel available? It sounds like a given, but it isn’t at every airport. How about
maintenance services? If something breaks on your plane are you going to have to
get a mechanic to come to you or is there one available on the field? In the case
of an emergency, are life-essential services (fire trucks most commonly) available
on the airport?
Consider the types of services that are available at the airport and how this will
affect your ability to keep your plane flying. Commonly overlooked is the consideration
of what approaches are available at the airport. If you are planning to fly IFR
regularly but are going to base at an airport that does not have an instrument approach,
you may find yourself periodically landing at other nearby airports and needing
Towered vs. Non-Towered
Many pilots are fearful of the “burden” of being at an airport that has a control
tower, but overlook the benefits. While it may be necessary to get a clearance to
taxi and depart, a control tower at an airport can coordinate IFR clearances, help
look for traffic when you are doing some pattern work, or just help provide weather
information. These are services not available at non-towered airports.
Many towered airports will also have more extensive airport security. This can be
less convenient for visitors coming to fly with you, but it can keep your aircraft
more secure. Whether it is a perimeter fence around the airport or just a tower
controller watching the grounds and questioning any abnormal behavior, the added
security can be desirable.
Spending a little time at the airport and getting a feel for the community can be
a deciding factor in many cases. Is the airport closest to you a place where pilots
pull their airplanes out, fly, and put them away afterwards without interacting
with each other? Maybe it isn't right for you if you would prefer to be at an airport
where people BBQ at their hangars. If that is important to you, take the time to
see if there are regular events, fly-ins, or even just a group of folks that hang
out for Saturday morning coffee. If you don’t care, and all you need is come and
go and fly for travel, this may not be important. Every airport has a different
feel. Spend a little time to get to know some of the pilots before you make a final
I would be a liar to say that proximity isn’t a factor at all, but if you are choosing
between two airports and one is an extra 5-10 minute drive from the other but offers
more services, it might be worth considering the airport a little further down the
road. There are lots of factors that can determine if one particular airport is
the right one for you. These are just a few to start thinking about before you call
a new airport home.
Have suggestions for picking your home airport? Email Avemco at PIREP@Avemco.com.
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Jason Blair is an active single and multi-engine instructor and FAA Designated Pilot
Examiner with 4,800 hours total time and 2,700 hours instruction given. He serves
on several FAA/Industry aviation committees and is the past Executive Director of
the National Association of Flight Instructors. He also consults on aviation training
and regulatory efforts for the general aviation industry.
does not provide technical or legal advice, and is not affiliated with companies
whose products and services are highlighted, advertised, or discussed in content
contained herein. Content is for general information and discussion only, and is
not a full analysis of the matters presented. The information provided may not be
applicable in all situations, and readers should always seek specific advice from
the FAA and/or appropriate technical and legal experts (including the most current
applicable guidelines) before taking any action with respect to any matters discussed
herein. In addition, columns and articles solely reflect the views of their respective
authors, and should also not be regarded as technical or legal advice.