Rich Henry has been an integral part of the development of the airport, especially from 1977 to 1992.
For those 15 years Rich was at the airport night and day. He was known as “The Man for all Seasons” at Northern Gila County’s only airport. He and his wife lived in a trailer at the airport and were available 24/7 to pilots flying into Payson. He would keep the Unicom by his bed and talk to pilots who were lost or having difficulty.
It was Henry who got permission from the Payson Airport Board to start a flight school, charter and scenic flight service, Payson Air. His responsibilities included keeping the airport opened 24/7, plus clearing the landing strip of snow and providing security to the airport. An old green school bus and a shed held his mechanic shop. During his time in Payson he taught over 100 people to fly, gave flight reviews to hundreds more and worked on over 3,000 airplanes, increasing the number of pilots in Payson and bringing pilots and planes to the town.
He helped to put in lights on the runway and painted numbers and put in tie downs. For aviation fuel he drove to Phoenix and hauled 10 55-gallon drums of fuel to the airport. Later, he bought and repaired a used gasoline tanker from Yuma and put it on the field. Ed Glascock and Barry Goldwater backed a loan for Payson Air to get the first load of fuel. The county, then the town, received a fuel tax.
In 1978, he and his wife Doris opened The Crosswinds restaurant at the airport, which was the old Payson town hall trailer, added a room, put in a port-a-potty, cut openings in the trailer for windows and put in a septic tank. Henry brought a 1,000 gal water tank from Star Valley and pressurized it to deliver water to the restaurant. The town benefited from the sales tax on the food and the visitors it brought to view the beautiful Mogollon Rim.
With Henry’s encouragement, local businesses and Payson pilots donated supplies and labor to build the concrete steps on the west side of the restaurant.
In 1983, Henry and others founded the 501c Payson Pilots Association (PPA) to offer education or pilots and fly air lifts to make money to use for donations to needy organizations in Payson. The PPA continues to contribute to the community. For many years he was the first in line to give free flights to youngsters through the EAA Young Eagles.
In 1988, when administration of the airport changed from Gila County to the Town of Payson, Henry organized an Aerofair for the re-dedication of the airport. By 1989 the number of operations (take offs and landings) had increased from 4,000 to 25,000. In 1990 Henry was formerly selected as airport manager and finally received a salary from the town. For the previous 13 years he was available 24/7 to pilots making a living only from his airplane maintenance, instruction, fueling and running the restaurant.
Rich Henry contributed so much to the development of the Payson Municipal Airport. We support his being honored by adding Rich Henry Field as a tag line to Payson Municipal Airport. This will in no way change the official name of the airport or change any flying activities. It is being requested to honor a man who has served the Payson aviation community for many years.
Thank you for your support.