Friday, August 11, 2017

Honors for Payson Airport (KPAN) Founder Rich Henry

Rich Henry created the Payson Airport in the 1970s and started the Crosswinds Restaurant with his wife.

Pilots flying into the Payson Airport should give silent thanks to founder Rich Henry because they no longer have to worry about cows.

“He came up here and the airport was dirt, it hadn’t been paved yet,” said Henry’s daughter, Donna Pyper. “I think it was mostly Forest Service ... [pilots] had to make sure there were no cows [on the runway] … [they] would buzz the landing so the cows would get off so they could land.”

Henry passed away from cancer in July. His daughters — Donna and her sisters, Cindy Auclair and Roxanne Ferguson — have many fond memories of their father who not only founded the airport, he could repair and build anything.

“We would ask him to fix something, a light, anything,” said Donna. “Well, he would fix it or he would make something to fix it.”

Cindy remembered one incident when the family still lived in California that illustrated her father’s ingenuity.

“When I was about six years old, we lived in Topanga Canyon. Our house was at the bottom of a mountain, in fact the back of it was right up against the mountain,” said Cindy.

They had a TV, but it did not have any reception, so Henry decided to put an antenna on top of the mountain.

“He made a cabling that consisted of small three- to four-inch boards, into which he put small holes on each side to run wire through,” she said.

Henry took Cindy and her sisters up the hill to place the antenna and then roll the cabling down to the house to connect to the TV.

“After having reached the house, he hooked it up to the TV somehow; not sure how,” she said. “I just know that from then on we had great TV and I got to watch the Mickey Mouse Club after school.”

On top of all that, he did great handstands.

“He had a lot of humor and he liked to do gymnastics,” said Donna. “He would do handstands for us. It was awesome to watch him.”

Donna said that her father had a lifelong love of flying that started when he was a little boy — either 7 or 8 depending on whom you asked.

“My aunt … said eight, my dad said he was seven,” said Donna.

The story goes: brother and sister were together walking away from their broken down bus when they saw an airplane, probably a crop duster.

“The pilot asked if my dad wanted a ride,” said Donna.

While his older sister watched, Henry went up in the plane.

“That started his whole love affair with planes,” she said.

Donna said that her dad had many careers, all of which included working with engines and mechanics.

In the late 1950s, Henry came to Payson to set up his sister and her children at the Christopher Creek Lodge and start a career at the sawmill as a diesel mechanic.

Then the lumber mill closed and Henry moved back down to Phoenix.

While in Phoenix, Henry worked as an instructor at the Phoenix Union School District and then he owned an auto shop garage.

That shop got him interested in racing cars.

“He actually took a Volkswagen and souped it up and raced at Phoenix Raceway,” said Donna. “They had these races. He decided to call himself the Red Baron. He really did like the image from Germany of the Red Baron. We would go out and watch him.”

Racing cars then launched Henry into taking flying lessons, said Donna.

“He went from one step to the next, private to commercial instrument, then to instructor,” she said. “He did all that step-by-step.”

Henry finally had enough of the heat of Phoenix and moved back to Payson in the 1970s.

He decided the town needed a decent airport with a paved runway, so he created the Payson Airport.

He and his second wife then started the Crosswinds Restaurant.

“He and my step-mom, Doris, started the Crosswinds,” said Donna. “She would serve coffee and doughnuts on the weekends for the pilots that came. It became a little pilots’ clubhouse.”

Henry also managed the airport and fixed planes in his hangar.

“It was his last career,” said Donna. “From the ’70s until 1988 he was the airport manager. After that, he still had his hangar. He was one of the rare people that also had a certificate to work on planes. Planes have to have annuals — not only was he teaching flying, he was also doing annuals on planes.”

On Sunday, Aug. 13 at 6:30 a.m., pilots will have a flyby over the airport in celebration of Henry.

Promptly after that, they will meet to dedicate a plaque written up in his honor.

The family will have a celebration of life on Aug. 18.

Original article ➤

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