Drive up and take a look at Aviator Circle off Earhart Parkway in Payson in the Mazatzal Airpark. You no longer will see a pile of red rocks in the middle of the road. Ken Rice, who lives on the street, slowly transformed this median into eye catching geometric rock patterns with a unique airplane sculpture at the top of the street.
Rice, who retired as an Air Force major, is the stonework creator. While in the Air Force he had the distinction of piloting both Air Force One and Air Force Two flying Vice Presidents Bush, Quayle and Gore and President Clinton. His next career was as an airline captain for American Airlines.
After moving to Payson and the Airpark he decided to keep busy doing stonework on his property. He then built a stone wall for his neighbor to prevent flooding. Not finished, yet, Rice moved into the street. The neighbors watched him every day for several months on his knees developing his median creation, making many changes as he went. The pattern was completed, but he felt something was missing. He added an arrow pointing true north. Next, in December, came a Christmas tree with lights.
He was not satisfied. He talked it over with his neighbors, Tom West an American Airline pilot and Mac McCabe a retired United captain and they decided to chip in and have an airplane made for the top of the cul de sac.
West had a friend who knew a metal artist. They described what they wanted, a replica of Rice’s Lance Air Legacy airplane. Now visitors find an airplane sculpture that greets the neighbors as they taxi their airplanes up the hill to their hangars. It stays on the ground as a stunning very large weather vane at the head of Aviator Circle.
The sculpture is the work of metal artist Christopher Hudson from Phoenix. Hudson said, “I always wanted to be an artist. I love what I do and I make a living at it.”
He works in all types of metal sculpture, nuts, bolts, screws, anything metal. Self taught, Hudson has been making metal art for over 25 years. His artworks are highly prized. The neighbors prize this airplane, made of a variety of metal pieces.
Always one to stay busy, Rice, may be developing new projects in the future. Well, whatever you do next, thank you for this one that has beautified the neighborhood.