A Walk in the Airpark

Rest and renewal in a long-standing pilot community.

Roger Guest strolls the lawns, where airplanes (Cub, foreground; Citabria, background) rather than cars rule. (Caroline Sheen)
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“This is just such a wonderful spot to visit,” Marra says. “You have the bay and the grass strip and mostly the food. You can’t beat the food. It’s really a throwback to grassroots aviation. It’s like landing in someone’s back yard for a visit.”

But drop-ins like the one from Keystone Flight are rare. In the old days, residents recall pilots in pursuit of all things crab flying into Kentmorr by the dozen. At times, the line of parked airplanes stretched a quarter-mile down the runway.

The 2001 terrorist attacks changed that. Every day for about a week, a police cruiser parked on the runway to prevent takeoffs or landings, and the government imposed an air-defense zone around the Washington, D.C. region that severely restricted recreational flying and forced others to add costly radio equipment to their cockpits. Pilots wanting to enter the expanded Air Defense Identification Zone also had to file a flight plan. “The ADIZ is a big wet blanket that we’ll never recover from,” says Roger Guest. “We used to get 20 planes on an afternoon. Now, if we get half a dozen, we get kind of excited.”

The feds adjusted the boundaries in 2005 to make Kentmorr more accessible, but traffic didn’t pick up much. Only in the last year, since Kentmorr was freed from the restricted airspace, have residents noticed a slight increase in visitors. “It certainly is more quiet than it used to be,” says Guest. He misses the air traffic. “That is why we live here, and why it’s a public-use airport. We want to see the different planes take off and land.”

Guest is sitting on a picnic bench on his back deck, enjoying a lazy summer afternoon. In the distance, he hears a

familiar buzz, and soon “an ugly looking” airplane circles the field in the wrong direction. It’s from a local flight school, and the instructor should know better, Guest says, watching as the aircraft makes its final approach and a “so-so landing.” Kentmorr residents are tough critics: They used to judge landings by holding up large cardboard scorecards.

Guest walks over to his hangar and shows off his bright red 1968 Citabria, which took him six years to refurbish.  He also now owns Bob Martin’s Cub. Hanging from a rack is the steel tube fuselage of a Marquart Charger, a slick

biplane that Guest has long wanted to build. In 1998, a friend sold him the fuselage skeleton—“the welding is a work of art,” Guest says—on the condition that Guest finish the job. He admits, “It’s

taking me longer than I thought.”

The Charger has hung from the ceiling for 10 years. He has an engine and one wing ready for it. But first he had to fix his son’s airplane, and then he gets busy doing laundry and other chores around his bachelor pad or talking airplanes with his neighbors or debating the merits of leveling the runway or installing a pump system to drain standing water after storms.

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