5 Creative Ways to Turn Your Airplane Hangar into a Summer Hangout Spot
by Crista Worthy
A hangar’s main purpose is to store and protect airplanes. But your hangar can do so much more! In addition to convenient temperature control and security functions like those provided by HangarBot, you can turn your hangar into an inviting, fun space to hang out with friends and family. In my travels around the country, I’ve seen a lot of creative hangar décor. Here are a few examples.
- Ode to the Beach Boys
One pilot I met based his slick little Vans RV at Hawthorne Municipal Airport (HHR), just south of LAX. Hawthorne is the childhood home of the Beach Boys. This pilot also owned a fuel-injected Sting Ray, like the one described in the classic 1963 Beach Boys song “Shut Down.” He decorated his hangar with Beach Boys memorabilia, including records on the wall, a juke box filled with surf music, fake palm trees lit with green neon lights, hula hoops, a Coke machine and more. The candy-apple red Sting Ray, metal flake blue airplane, glossy white-painted hangar, and all the surf accessories made quite a sight.
- Your Own Red-Carpet Lounge
My favorite pilot friend lives in a small town in Idaho. He never locks his door, leaves the keys in his car and never used to lock his hangar, either. Inspired by United's Red-Carpet Lounge, one of his friends secretly installed a Red Carpet Lounge in his hangar. It was decorated with neon beer signs in the theme of “babes and booze.” (This was before 9/11, so the entire airport was unfenced.) My friend then added his dad’s 1950s Coke machine, which he kept stocked with beer and sodas. The machine had been converted to accept quarters (originally 15 cents), but it still didn’t cover the cost of the beverages, so he just left the key in the door of the machine and everyone helped themselves. Lots and lots of hangar flying went on in the Red Carpet Hangar. It was common for non-aviation people to come and hang out. Several got the bug and went on to become pilots themselves!
- Document Your Travels
A late pilot friend of mine lived to travel, and he flew airplanes all over the world. Based for years in Germany, he bought a Skyhawk and flew north of the Arctic Circle, over the Egyptian pyramids, deep into Africa and throughout Europe. He crossed the Atlantic Ocean with another pilot and soloed across the Pacific in a Skywagon. The walls of his hangar were decorated with two giant maps: a U.S. map and a world map. He stuck pins in all the places he had landed. Shelves were filled with books from his travels, and visitors were always guaranteed mind-blowing true stories of landing on European glaciers or tiny wilderness airstrips.
- Summer in the Backcountry
Another friend of mine with a gorgeous Skywagon has spent years flying to Idaho’s beautiful backcountry airstrips. Every summer, he and his wife drive their RV up to Garden Valley (U88) and park it near the airstrip. The RV serves as their home base. It’s filled with all the conveniences, including sofas, big flat-screen TVs, a built-in garage for a Razor ATV and even a hummingbird feeder out front. Friends stop by often, and there are a couple of big fly-ins each summer with potluck barbeques, breakfasts, entertainment and camaraderie.
- Rocky Mountain Rustic
The folks at Alpine Airpark (46U), south of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, enjoy a particularly beautiful and friendly community. An open hangar is an invitation for anyone to stop by and visit. Campfires gatherings are a nightly event in summer, when residents trade stories about the day’s flights. After the adjacent lake freezes over in winter, someone drags a small shed out onto the ice as a warmup hut. Pilots sip hot chocolate in the hut when they’re not out ice fishing. Hangar décor at Alpine tends toward rustic, reclaimed woods, Northwoods or Native American accents, and aviation-themed furniture.
What will you do with your hangar to turn it into your favorite summer hangout spot? Maybe these stories will inspire you—the sky’s the limit!