Payson Airport manager Ted Anderson took over airport operations two months ago, after leaving his position at the Petaluma Municipal Airport north of San Francisco.
Anderson a former chopper pilot in Vietnam and an experienced airport administrator said his fascination with aviation began at an early age.
"My interest (in airplanes) started when I was in high school and college when I had a chance to fly an airplane with friends, and then I was drafted into the service," he said. "After two years, a decision had to be made whether I would stay in the service or get out."
Anderson stayed in the service, and was accepted into the Army flight school program. He attended the Army rotary wing course where he finished among the top five percent of those on the commandant's list. He then attended specialized training on the Army's Cobra Gunship and then shipped off for Vietnam.
"It was an interesting tour and I did a lot in one year there, including flying combat assaults," he said.
He also flew many support missions, helped train the South Vietnamese in helicopter operation and helped develop a training course for them in radio communications.
"I think I was hit 15 times and shot down once (during my tour of duty)," he said.
He said being shot down was "interesting." He was able to get the chopper safely on the ground, but landed just a short distance from the soldiers who'd knocked him out of the sky. Anderson said he was rescued by other gunships with the help of ground forces, but it was an unforgettable experience.
"I did find out that I had a round going right at me that hit a hard point, and rather than hitting me it went up through the nose of the aircraft," he said. "I even kept a few pictures of that."
During his 20-year career, Anderson served around the world, finally retiring as an Army major and master aviator in 1986.
"My last assignment in the Army was being the assistant airfield commander at Fort Bliss, Texas, which is adjacent to El Paso International Airport where they had some openings when I got out," he said. He applied for a position and became that airport's first operations officer. After two years, he was named airport operations superintendent, a position he held for four years until his children graduated from high school.
Anderson then polished his airport operation skills in Grand Forks, N.D., Garden City, Kan., and at two airports in California before moving to Payson and taking over airport operations here.