Spruce Creek Fly-In is the world's first total fly-in community. Pilots park their airplanes at their homes which are located on taxiways with access to a private airstrip. Conceived, planned, and launched by McKinley Conway, the project today provides an unique life style for more than 800 families. Here is the background.
Soon after WWII McKinley Conway bought a used single-engine Cessna 170 and began using it for business travel around the USA. He quickly discovered that he had great mobility in the air but on the ground there was very little. At almost every stop he had to call for and wait for ground transportation. Over a period of several years he began to imagine a new world in which he could taxi his airplane to the offices and plants he wanted to visit and park at the door.
At the same time, Conway observed that scores of airfields built during WWII were being declared surplus and handed off to local governments. Conway saw an opportunity -- convert them into fly-in office and industrial parks! He began a missionary campaign, offering his services as a consultant.
During the ensuing decade Conway planned and promoted such developments at a number of former military bases in Georgia and Florida and at other sites from the Northeast to the West Coast. His experience was summarized in a book The Airport City published in 1977.
Today, there are several hundred fly-in developments around the world. As fleets of small airplanes are brought into service to meet the needs of nations with large land masses -- such as Russia, Brazil, and Australia -- this style of development is expected to increase.
During the early 1960s, McKinley Conway made a survey of surplus military airfields in Florida. He made aerial photos, noted access and other features. Then he approached the owners -- mostly local governments -- and proposed that he prepare a development plan for them. He was subsequently retained to plan fly-in industrial parks at such locations as Punta Gorda, Melbourne, and Marianna.
One of the sites which particularly appealed to Conway was the old Samsula airfield near Daytona Beach. He saw the potential for a total fly-in community, featuring residential, recreational and environmental areas. Having received no reaction to letters, Conway went to Daytona and met with the director of development, Bob Miles, and other officials.
Nothing came of that early visit. Daytona officials wanted to do something with the property, but their hope was that it would be chosen for the site of a new state university. Unfortunately, the state located the university elsewhere and the city officials were left with a dilemma -- they had lost in a highly-publicized competition and there was an election coming up.
It was at this psychological moment that city leaders decided that they liked Conway's proposal for an exciting new type of fly-in community. They did not, however, want to undertake it as a city project. Thus, the mayor and council members flew to Atlanta to make a proposal to Conway: "we will sell you the property at a very attractive price if you will handle the development".
This posed a dilemma for Conway. He was not a real estate developer and had no desire to be. Neither did he have the money required. Yet the project offered one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to do something really special.
Conway's response was to call a group of Atlanta pilot-friends together and lay out the proposition -- they would chip in, buy the property, and then arrange with a Florida developer to implement the project. This plan met with the approval of the Daytona officials. Early in 1969 the Atlanta group signed a purchase contract.
Following that, a year was spent in conducting environmental studies, obtaining FAA airspace approval, getting an overall plan approved by the zoning board. Before the process was over Conway had obtained more than 40 permits.
Finally, in July, 1970, the project could be officially launched. The Atlanta investors flew into the old airstrip where they were met by city officials for the property transfer ceremony. Fittingly, a ribbon was stretched across the airstrip and one of the investors cut it with the propeller of his Bonanza.
Photo shows President Mac Conway (at microphone) accepting the Spruce Creek property as Daytona, Florida Mayor Richard Kane (right) looks on.
Most pace-setting developments result from the foresight, determination, and ability of a team which provides strong leadership. In the case of Spruce Creek, such a team did not just happen -- it was carefully chosen.
Involved in Fly-In Concept, Inc., and its ventures are a group of civic minded men who are also successful businessmen, and, in most cases, aircraft owners and pilots of long experience. They bring together a broad range of skills in development, conservation, planning, finance, aviation and recreation.
For example, early investors and board members include Mack Long, a senior Delta pilot who flies those big Boeing 747's; Bill Slaughter, who practices the fly-in concept by keeping his Cessna in a "planeport" attached to his new Florida home; Eric Moser, a bank equipment executive who pilots a twin Comanche; Floyd Traver, a building contractor who favors a Cessna Skylane; Mark Taylor, a commercial development executive with an interest in a fixed base operation and multiple flying skills; Ed Cornish, an official of Encylopedia Brittanica, who flies a Beech Baron; Dr. John Heard, top M.D. in an Atlanta clinic and owner of a Cessna 310; Georgia Senator Frank Eldridge, who covers his district in a Beech Bonanza; Pat Epps, well-known Atlanta FBO and member of a top aviation family; Bob Brown, an aviation insurance executive who flies the circuit of airports he insures.
Other early investors serving as an advisory team include manufacturer Paul Potter, long-time Civil Air Patrol Official; general contractor Frank Amersoni, Harrold Bowen, owner of a Cessna 401; leading architect A. Thomas Bradbury; ecologist Dr. L. Lehr Brisbin; flying executive Ralph Brooks; Delta pilot and State Representative Stan Collins; banker B. Olin Cox, an official of the Baptist Home Mission Board; insurance executive Harlan Dahl, owner of a Beech Debonaire; banker Carrol Davis, who handles aircraft financing; pilot Herman Guffey, current program chairman, Institute of Navigation; George Gunn, former airport owner; Dr. Larry Howard, pilot, microbiologist and director of the state crime laboratory; Walter Keenan, former Navy pilot, businessman; former Air Force pilot and businessman Albert Kramer; former Naval Aviator Ed Lindgren, owner of an import business; National Airlines pilot Ed Lunsford, Coral Gables; Atlanta Journal award-winning columnist and aviation writer John Pennington; consulting engineer Dan Sewell, who flies a twin Comanche; engineer James Smith, who designs hangars ranging up to C5-A proportions.
Others who have gotten in early via lot purchases at Spruce Creek or investment in FIC include distributor Bill Low, who flies a Beech Baron; Pan American pilot Joe Zicone of Miami; Floyd Jillson, well-known newspaper photographer; Jim Hodges, Sears Roebuck executive who is an aircraft owner and pilot; A. C. Martinez, an Encyciopedia Brittanica executive and aircraft owner and pilot from Houston, Texas; Harry Haake, analyst with Connecticut General Life Insurance Company; and K. J. Goodroe, pilot with Eastern Airlines.
It is significant that some 85 to 90 percent of the equity in FIC at this point has been put up by these leaders. Those who conceived of the Spruce Creek project have had sufficient faith in it that they have chosen to invest their own money.
Altogether, it is a winning combination!
Spruce Creek today is a thriving community of more than 800 families. Taxiway access lots have been sold out and there is talk of limiting the number of airplanes which can be based there.
The site has appealed greatly to airline pilots. Many live at Spruce Creek Fly-In and commute to flying assignments elsewhere -- it is not uncommon for a pilot to fly his small single-engine airplane from Spruce Creek to a nearby air carrier airport and shuttle to New York where he captains a Boeing 747 around the world.
Perhaps the best-known resident of Spruce Creek Fly-In is actor John Travolta. He has attracted attention operating his Learjet from the small strip. Many residents do their own aircraft maintenance work, rebuild old aircraft, or assemble kits as hobbies. Frequent community affairs afford endless opprtunities for "hangar flying".
Neither Conway Data nor McKinley Conway has had any financial interest or management role in the Spruce Creek Fly-In project for many years. Those seeking current information should contact:
Spruce Creek Property Owners Association
Telephone (904) 760-5884
©1999 Conway Data, Inc. All rights reserved. SiteNet data is from many sources and is not warranted to be accurate or current.