For longtime pilot and Aero Fair organizer Marie Fasano, a day spent in the sky is a little heaven on earth. The sights and colors of the Rim never grow old, the natural bridge never loses its luster, and the squeal of first-time passengers never fails to amuse.
And unlike other pilots who have to drive to the airport, unload their plane and then take off, Fasano has the option of taking off from her front door.
For the past several years, she has lived next to the Payson Airport in an airpark where homeowners can safely keep their planes in a garage/hangar attached to their home.
Fasano lives with her partner, a retired United Airlines pilot.
“It is every pilot’s dream to retire in an airpark,” she said.
All it takes is the flick of a switch and the enormous doors of the garage swing open, the plane is rolled out, she climbs aboard, taxis to the runway and she’s off. It does not take long for her to spot something new from the sky, like the painted rocks, a remote trail or even an animal.
Fasano said she tries to fly at least once a week, but with her busy schedule as a nurse and helping organize this year’s Aero Fair, she is not left with much time.
In the midst of her crazy schedule, Fasano agreed to take the Roundup up for a spin in her Cessna 182 several weeks ago. Taking off from the Payson Airport, we took a quick spin around the area; similar to the flights pilots from the Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter # 810 will offer on the day of the Aero Fair for $25 per person.
So, a motion sickness prone reporter and gung-ho photographer clambered into Fasano’s plane and were off.
Fasano said the first thing you notice about the area from the sky is how truly green and beautiful everything is.
“The Rim and mountain scenery offer so much to see in the spring,” she said.
Fasano zipped over to the Tonto Natural Bridge at cruising speed of 130 knots. From the sky, the bridge takes on a different look. From the ground, it is a large structure, but from the sky, surrounding hills and trees dwarf it. After admiring the bridge and empty parking lot for a moment, Fasano zoomed to the top of the Rim, following Highway 87 to the painted rocks.
Like the name implies, a stretch of land has been cleared on top of the Rim and painted rocks laid out to read “PHOENIX” with an arrow pointing south. Every year, since the rocks were placed in the 1940s, a group goes out and repaints the rocks, although they are not used as a navigational tool any longer.
From the rocks, Fasano flew to Pine, Star Valley and then headed back for the airport, after this reporter began to feel ill.
Safely on the ground, Fasano explained she started flying in 1974 after taking a flight with a friend to Kansas. The pilot offered Fasano the co-seat and the controls.
“I thought this is fantastic,” she said of the first-time piloting. “I was hooked.”
Since becoming a private pilot, Fasano has become more involved in the world of aviation and in 2005 got involved with the Aero Fair.
“They had the Aero Fair for years, but now there are more volunteers and we have made it larger,” she said.
At the fair this year, expect to see even more planes from every decade and several countries. Planes include the Italian Marchetti, the only privately owned one in the world, an English Spitfire, a Chinese Haiyan, the B25 Barbie III, World War I and World War II planes and Cessnas similar to Fasano’s.
The Omniflight, Native Air helicopter crew will show how they transport patients from the Rim Country to Valley hospitals and at noon, the Tonto National Forest Helitack crew will demonstrate how they put out forest fires with a water drop near the runway.
For children, a kids hangar will be open where they can meet commercial pilots and learn about flying. They can also discover how to talk like a pilot using the phonetic alphabet. Experts will translate and demonstrate how to say a name using the alphabet. Children can also try on a pilot’s headset and coat and get their photo taken.
The Payson Pilots Association will offer a breakfast of pancakes, eggs, sausage, juice and coffee from 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. The cost is $7 for adults and $4 for children under 10.
Vendors will have pottery, craft items, art, jewelry, books, model airplanes, aviation jewelry and other aviation gifts for sale. Food vendors will offer bakery items, barbecue lunch, hot dogs, local honey, popcorn, cookies and candy.
Several raffles will go on throughout the day, with prizes that include a girls and boys bike and wine for adults. Raffle tickets cost $2 each.
The Rim Country Classic Auto Club and other organizations will have new and classic cars on display as well as antique cars and tractors.
The fair runs from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Payson Airport, Saturday, May 16.
Payson Police Department volunteers will direct parking. Look for additional parking on Airport Road and handicapped parking is available. A shuttle will run to and from the parking lot and airport all day.
For more information, call (928) 468-0147 or visit www. paysonairport.com.