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April 1, 2011
By Julie Summers Walker
No, that’s not Audie Murphy in the corner of the bar, nor is that Betty Grable sitting next to him. This is the Hangar Hotel of Fredericksburg, Texas, where it might be 2011—but it sure feels like 1942.
Owner Dick Estenson built this 50-room hotel in 2003 and based its construction on old military World War II hangars. With its rounded roof, wooden walls, and location smack on the tarmac at Gillespie County Airport, the Hangar Hotel sure looks like the perfect place for traveling pilots. Since you can taxi right up to the doors, it pretty much is.
Inside, it gets better. With its South Pacific theme, hotel staff in period costume, bomber-jacket leather-covered chairs in the “Officer’s Club,” and wool army blankets on the beds (don’t worry, the sheets are fine Egyptian cotton), this is a “total immersion” hotel. You won’t remember what year it is until you go back outside.
Estenson is a private pilot—that’s his 1946 Navion that he restored sitting out front under the pin-up art billboard. He is a former NASA engineer who loves flying and loves remembering the golden age of flight. He has built this hotel for pilots and aviation enthusiasts and it is kid-free; you must be over 18 and respect the artifacts and memorabilia throughout the hotel.
The adjacent Airport Diner was designed after old railcar diners in the Northeast. The floors of the diner are terrazzo, the countertops are black granite, and there is original art by Lance Von Prum. Here you can enjoy chocolate malts, a Bomber Burger, and hand-battered onion rings.
April 6 through 8, the Collings Foundation Wings of Freedom Tour will visit Gillespie County Airport. Flight experiences aboard the B–17, B–24, B–25, and P–51 will be available. World War II veterans get into the ground tours at no charge.
AOPA Senior Features Editor Julie Summers Walker joined AOPA in 1998. She is a student pilot still working toward her solo.
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