Airport manager keeps eye on sky
The Breezy Point Airport has been at the city's center since the early 1920s, but for the last 14 years it has thrived, thanks in part to airport manager Cliff Muller.
The Roseville native moved to the area in 2001 after retiring from careers as a carpenter and restaurant owner, which gave him more time to focus on his passion for flying.
"There was something about the magic of flying way back when I was a kid," Muller said. "I think we all ran around with our arms out, jumping off of things. I think it is something in human nature where we are drawn to water and we like the excitement of flying."
His fascination with flight continued when he served in Vietnam as an airborne infantryman.
"I was one of the guys that jumped out (of airplanes)," he said.
Shortly after returning home from Vietnam, Muller earned his pilot's license.
Now he lives in a repurposed airplane hangar on Airport Drive in Breezy Point. Doing so allows him to be a staircase away from his work, which includes a 1941 Stinson 10A single-engine plane that he spent five years rebuilding in his free time.
"Wilbur and Orville Wright wrote something that I always thought was so neat: 'It is possible to fly without motors, but not without knowledge and skill,'" Muller said. "I can actually build a plane and fly it, and that is really exciting. I suppose there is some pride in that."
His hangar-home - a sight more common in southern and western states like Texas and California - was built entirely by Muller over the course of roughly two years. Much of the materials used were repurposed as well, coming from old barns, schoolhouses and other areas.
"This is the dream for an air park," Muller said. "You don't feel like you are in a hangar when you are up here (in the living area). It has everything I need, and I can still go downstairs after supper and work on an airplane. I always think about something when I'm away from the hangar ... It is so practical."
As a member of the airport's board of directors, Muller allows his hangar to be used as a board meeting site as well.
Muller's day-to-day with the airport consists primarily of general groundskeeping and keeping the runway clear of debris. Unique situations arise occasionally, though, like clearing 500 trees to add a few hundred feet to the runway over a decade ago.
His work at the airport allows him to devote time to his own aerial pursuits. He goes on a "just for fun" flight two or three times a month and attends as many weekend fly-ins as he can in an effort to socialize with people just like him.
"If you watch pilots, the first thing they do when they step outside is look up at the sky subconsciously," Muller said. "They check which way the wind is blowing and all these things they seem to file away in their heads."
Muller played a large role in organizing the Breezy Point Airport's first fly-in in early May, which saw over 50 aircrafts and over 500 people attend. The success of that event has led to the board of directors declaring it an annual event to occur the first weekend of May.
"I have had people come up to me in the street and thank me for putting that on because their kids loved it," Muller said. "We need to refine a few things, but it was just great."
For Muller, it is all done so the airport has a little more recognition and the city of Breezy Point is on the map.
"We don't have to be a little stuck-in-the-corner place," Muller said. "We are a destination, and I'm just happy to be a part of that. I think it's exciting."