By 7:30 in the morning, the Experimental Aircraft Association took its first rider up in the air.
By 8 a.m., five World War II planes buzzed across the sky in perfect formation making hearts flutter with memories and bringing tears of pride to eyes.
By 8:30 attendees sat down to a breakfast put on by the Northern Gila County Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) and ate up all the sausage and eggs reported coordinator Mac Feezor.
All in all the Payson Airport Aero Fair returned in triumph after a year off due to a dangerous fire season, a change in ownership and administration, plus a new date.
“There are wall to wall people,” said Ray Law, the new airport coordinator as he looked at the steady stream of people entering the airport. He’s been at his post for the past year, but this Aero Fair represented his first time coordinating the event.
“It all came together really well,” said Law. “I’m sort of a committee of one.”
Law had volunteers from Home Depot stationed at each entrance counting the number who attended. The final count came to about 1,600.
An all around success for the Town of Payson that took over the airport from a volunteer group of pilots a year ago and brought Law on about the same time.
Law had an eye for detail and carried a radio to answer any questions that came up. He admitted to having a case of nerves.
“These last few weeks my blood pressure has been pretty high,” he said before dashing off to help with a delivery of about 50 bags of ice.
He need not have worried. It all ran like clockwork.
Over at the air hangar housing the Payson Hot Wings Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter committee taking sign ups for rides, Robert Henley effortlessly organized eager passengers.
“Come on out, we’re ready for you,” he told one group.
Henley had six pilots flying their planes. For $30, people could fly in a Cessna 205 (pilot, Jon Barber), a Piper Comanche (pilot, Dan Nyhus), a Cessna 195 (pilot, Ron Ward), a Cessna 182 (pilot, Bob Oswald), a Bonanza 35 (pilot, Steve Vaught), and a Cessna 205 (pilot, Robert Henley — when he had the time).
Stephanie Sosa came off her first flight in a small plane, face flushed with her husband Jose and their 5-year-old daughter Addison in tow.
“You feel everything,” she said of the ride.
The couple said they came up from North Central Phoenix for the fair because their daughter wants to be a pilot someday.
The Sosas have passed through Payson many times on their way to Greer in the White Mountains. Stephanie said they have even eaten at the restaurant next to the airport.
While she talked, Addison held tight to a toy plane. She was too shy to say anything.
Henley reported that 123 passengers flew on Saturday.
Since the pilots donated their gas, the proceeds from the flights will go toward local charities.
“We will be deciding soon on the local charities that will receive contributions from our air lift proceeds,” said Henley. Each year the chapter raises money to help the community.
Another group that helps the community and displayed aircraft at the Aero Fair was the Civil Air Patrol of the United States Air Force Auxiliary. The organization’s Web site says its purpose is “citizen serving communities.”
Started one week before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the volunteers in the Civil Air Patrol now provide aerospace education, cadet programs and emergency services.
Art Rogers, chief pilot for the Civil Air Patrol, reported that the group’s plane (a Cessna 182) and local Payson volunteers would fly to Greely, Colo. after the event to assist in communications and air reconnaissance for flood victims.
“We will help on the ground. Crews understand the extent of the damage from flooding,” he said.
Other groups showed off their planes and answered questions.
Visitors climbed over and saw the Aerodyne Flight Center’s (Scottsdale) Cessna 172 Skyhawk, Native Air Pilatus PC-12 turboprop Medevac aircraft and Eurocopter AS 350 helicopter.
Individuals exhibited a 1960 Piper Comanche, a 1995 Glasair experimental aircraft and a Sonex experimental aircraft.
“What pleased me most (about the event), was the wonderful turnout of spectators and the smiles I saw on their faces!” said Law.