Thursday, June 26, 2008

Sam Burgess Memorial Junket update - 6/26/08

(Today's dispatch from J.W. French follows.)

I had a delightful evening with my overnight host, Allan Lerfold, from Chapter 1445, and Steve Hulland, who is the newsletter editor for Chapter 81, and the Airport Manager of the Casa Grande airport.

Steve is doing a wonderful job of making the Casa Grande airport general aviation friendly. They are in first place for the Hall of Fame for general aviation services, facilities, attitude and fuel prices. 100LL was $4.98/ gal. The activity of pilots from Hall of Shame airports coming to use the field and purchase fuel is a credit to Steve's implementation and the city fathers who set the policy. If only more cities and counties that operate airports would stop looking at their airports as cash cows, and take this approach general aviation might have a chance of surviving a little longer.

This morning, Mike Still, the president of 1445, and several other chapter members were at the airport to see me off. This chapter went from start-up to 70 members in about a year and the enthusiasm and vitality of the chapter is just great. Mike Still is an excellent facilitator and organizer, and has really made the chapter blossom.

I launched for Payson, AZ (KPAN)) with apprehension because of the mountains and all the airspace issues, but it was still relatively cool, and winds and turbulence were not an isssue. I'm still not comfortable close to the mountains, but I sucked it up and did it. The conditions were all favorable and I gave myself the chance to handle the circumstances with minimal exposure. The scenery going into Payson was spectacular.

The airport is almost a mile above sea level. The air was choppy on downwind at pattern altitude, but when I turned from base to final it smoothed out and I greased another one. Either landings at the high altitudes are easier or I'm finally getting the hang of the Acro Sport. I wish I'd had more time to practice before I left on the trip.

My host is Robert Henley. His father, "Skid" Henley was in the aerial application business in McAlester, OK and Robert and his father and brother,
who ran the McAlester Airport for years, knew Leroy Holt of Thorp T18 fame. Leroy and I have known each other for over twenty years. I got Leroy on my cell phone and Bob, Leroy, and I had a nice chat. Coincidences didn't end there. We stopped at Ron Ward's hanger to see the Cessna 180 he now has for sale and and the beautiful Cessna 195 he has just aquired. Ron asked were I lived in Ft. Myers, FL and I told him Buckingham Airpark. He asked if I knew Paul Cox. I told him he is my neighbor, and was a big help in getting the Acro Sport ready for this trip. It turns out they were hanger mates in Louisville, KY for years.

So I got Paul on my cell phone and they had a nice visit and got reconnected.
Robert Henley has an American Eaglet replica that his father built from factory plans. It did't have the three cylinder Szekely radial engine with the cable around the cylinders to help hold them on, so I didn't recognize it at first. It started out with a C65 Continental, but after he brought it from McAlester, OK to the Arizona mountains he outfitted it with an C85 Continental. He also has a pristine 1947 Bonanza with the 225 Continental Engine.

Payson is a beautiful place, and the airpark that is connected to the municipal airport is great. Now there's an interesting approach, a municipal airport with access for a private airpark. That makes way too much sense for most levels of government to behave like this.

I will be off to Eagles Roost (27AZ), at Aguila AZ in the morning. It is another short flight over mountains, so I'm continuing to ease my way into this mountain flying in manageable steps. The pilots along the way have all been great about giving me pointers to ease the discomfort of facing the challenges of flying in the high desert and the mountains. This is grass roots aviation at it's best.

After Eagle's Nest I'll leave for General Stout Airport (1L8) at Hurricane, UT for an RON with Carlos Deunas.

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