The Waunakee airport (6P3) and its surrounding community are unlike any other airport I have experienced before. When most people think of an airport, they think of mile long wide strips of tarmac with commercial jets busily shuttling people back and forth across the world. However this is but a small percentage of actual airports in the US.
The Waunakee airport in particular is a single runway less than a half-mile long and thirty feet wide, or about the width of a typical two-lane street. Houses line either side of the runway and you can catch children playing in their backyard right next to the runway after school hours. While having an active runway in your backyard would frighten most people, it in fact is a major attraction that draws in a particular group of people, pilots. With so few pilots scattered across the US, it is rare to find a collective community of homes in which nearly everyone is a pilot.
Imagine being able to store a plane at home, in your own garage. In the morning you wake up and lookout the bedroom window to the beautiful blue sky above with the trees lightly swaying in the breeze. As you enjoy your first cup of coffee of the day, you stroll out to your private hangar and begin pre-flighting your plane. You notice that your next door neighbor had the same idea. After a friendly wave and a brief chat about recent flying adventures, you head back to the hanger to fire up the engine and depart to create the next adventure. When you return, you taxi the plane right up to the house to be tucked away till next time; never having to leave the comfort of your own home except to take to the skies.
My first experience with the Waunakee airport is one that I will never forget. After landing, I was attempting to push my small but heavy 1600 lbs. Cessna through the thick grass and sod alongside the runway into a hangar that a friend of a friend let me generously use. Within ten minutes of my constant struggle, hardly moving the plane more than a couple inches, I notice a man three houses down come out of his home and heads toward me. He introduces himself as a fellow pilot and gives me a hand pushing the plane. With the added manpower, the plane is quickly pushed back into the hangar. I thank him and we begin talking about recent flying experiences. Within minutes, I feel as if he is an old friend that I have known for ages. Before heading back home, he offers to take me flying and show me around the area. “Just come on down and knock on my door anytime”, he said. A week later I once again attempted to push the plane by myself with equally poor success but this time around the elderly gentleman next door and a woman from across the runway both stop by to lend a hand. We spoke for a while afterwards. Unsurprising both were long time members of the aviation community; he a pilot and she married to one.
Within the short time I kept my plane there, I felt as if I became friends with nearly everyone whose house surrounded the airport. Whenever there was activity at the airport, people from all around would stop by whether it be to lend a hand, catch up with an old friend, or to meet a new face. After all, one thing we all had in common is our passion for aviation.
About the author: Sean Sporie is a professional in mechanical engineering and an avid aviation enthusiast. He is a private pilot and a frequent flyer. Growing up in northern Wisconsin, Sean’s love of aviation started in his family’s Cessna 150 Aerobat and Cirrus SR-20. He has kept the 150 Aerobat for a short period of time at Waunakee airport and has since developed a love for this aviation community.