FLYING Magazine

David Wiles has been a resident of Winfield Airpark (54AR) for a little over a year. Extremely pleased with airpark living thus far, he explains that his only wish in getting to this stage is that it happened earlier.

“I’ve been in and out of a hangar my whole life. But I’m a late bloomer and learned to fly at 49. The only regret I have about aviation is that I waited too long to get involved with flying. I was the former operations manager of Salina Regional Airport (KSLN) [Kansas], for a number of years. I kept buying horses, buying horses for my ex-wife’s dream, and I finally said, ‘That’s it, I’m buying an airplane!’ I found a 1967 Cessna 172, purchased it, and have owned it ever since.”

Had he become a pilot earlier in life, perhaps he would have become a hangar home owner sooner. Not hung up on the what ifs, though, Wiles is proud to recount his all-encompassing military and airport management career that spanned decades. These experiences ultimately enabled him to pursue his other passions in life. 

“I’ve got family in Eastern Arkansas, family in Tulsa, family in Kansas, and at the time, I had family in Texas. I always dreamed of the lifestyle at an airpark and actually made a down payment on one in Texas that was on a municipal airport. After doing some research, I learned that at a municipal, federally funded airport, the FAA won’t allow anything past [you living there] 180 days at a time. So, I got out of that deal and my brother-in-law was then helping me search. I just happened to be in Eastern Arkansas visiting family and he said that there is an airpark home available just outside of Ozark, Arkansas.”

A Community Like No Other

To put it simply, Winfield Airpark has exceeded Wiles’ initial expectations. He notes that the community boasts a close-knit group of aviation enthusiasts, who came to Winfield from around the country. 

“The odd thing here is that like me, no one is from Arkansas. As I roll down the flight line, you have Illinois, Los Angeles, and then me. I’m from all over, my dad was a retired Marine and I retired from the Marines. Then you have Utah, Michigan, and two new residents from Colorado and Oregon. Then you have another Oregon and West Virginia.”

A surprising aspect to him about the community is how respectful its residents are of each other. Wiles goes so far as to note that the community is eerily similar to an annually held gathering of aviators. “Everybody has keys to each other’s house, for the most part. So, if I get an itch and want to go somewhere for two weeks, then my neighbor will say, ‘Hey, I saw a package on your front porch and put it inside the house for you!’” Wiles states. 

He continues, “It’s like a mini-Oshkosh. One of the most impressive things that I think about Oshkosh is that the shower houses have that shelf going around them with outlets all over. And there are laptops, cell phones, and tablets charging with no one near them. I always thought that was the neatest thing that there was that trust between like-minded people.”

Naturally, aviation is a centerpiece activity at the fly-in community and Wiles is able to fly when he wants. “I fly probably four or five times a month. Since I’m still fresh here at the airpark, I’m still checking out the local recreational grass strips in the area, which there are quite a few of. Yesterday, for example, I took off and then landed in a little town called Paris. I picked up a passenger and took her flying around Mount Magazine, which is the highest point in Arkansas. For me to go out, around Mount Magazine, and come back home is only around 45 minutes’ worth of flying. Most of my flying is just local recreation flying like that. If it’s a great day, it’s a good way to make myself happy. Between flying and my Jeep, those are my two happy places.”

David Wiles and his 1967 Cessna 172, in front of his hangar “barndominium.”
[Courtesy: David Wiles]

Wiles is able to have easy access to all of his passions, right at his home in the airpark. “As most people would call it these days, it’s a barndominium. It’s a 50-by-100-foot pole barn, basically. The first 30- by 50-foot [space] is the living area and it’s a two-bedroom, one bath place. Within, it’s one big great room that encompasses a dining room, living room, and a kitchen. Every morning, I get my cup of coffee, open my kitchen door, and step into the hangar that’s right there.” 

A Hangar Fit for a Motorhome and an Airplane

David Wiles’ hangar. [Courtesy: David Wiles]

Not only does this area serve as the space where he keeps his Skyhawk, Wiles stables his other toys in this double-serving hangar and garage space, as well. “I have got a small motorhome, a Sprinter van Class B motorhome, that I lived in for two years that’s in there. My truck and Jeep are also in there, and I even have space for another airplane if I want one. It’s just an amazing lifestyle to be able to live with your hobbies.” 

And while Wiles enjoys flying his airplane, perhaps what he enjoys more is working on it. This space allows him the flexibility to wrench on his aircraft whenever he pleases. 

“I’m also an A&P as well and went to school at K-State there in Salina when I was living there. I took my airplane with me and taxied my plane right over to the maintenance hangar at the school. It sat there the three years that I was in the program, where it was repainted, the engine was overhauled, and lots of modifications were completed. It was a neat way of upgrading my airplane. Now, I like working on the plane as much as I like flying it and have done everything that I can to this 1967. It’s beautiful and now I’m looking for a project.” 

With an ample hangar home, the company of other aviators, and the space to wrench on airplanes, Winfield Airpark is the perfect place for Wiles to tackle his next aviation goal. 

David Wiles flying his 1967 Cessna 172 from Winfield Airpark’s 2,600-foot turf airstrip.
[Courtesy: David Wiles]

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