The following is an email we received here at AACA Headquarters received from Ken Nebrig, a fellow AACA Member. The included photos were taken by our very own Kent & Gretchen Densley.
New Horizons…New Friends. This is the motto of the American Air Campers Association and it sure “hits the nail on the head” to describe the members passion for flying and air camping. While we have all enjoyed using the extensive AACA database of airports with on-airport camping facilities for our own adventures, it sure is a lot more fun to actually gas up the plane, load up the gear, meet some friends and get out and do some air camping!
It has been a really long and scorching summer all over the United States this year, but no place to the extremes like we have had here in the Southwest, where we view a 100 degree day as a “cold snap”. Summer is thankfully over and with the passing of the hellish temperatures and monsoon rains in this part of the country it can only mean one thing…..it was time to get our backsides off the couch and go air camping!
The weather gods were pleased with our offerings and were definitely smiling down upon us on the weekend of September 24-26 as 17 airplanes and 35 pilots and their guests were treated to perfect VFR weather to attend American Air Campers Association fly-in picnic and air camping adventure with the folks from the Four Corners – AYA and the Arizona Pilots Association. AZ (KPAN). Payson is one of our absolute favorite places in the southwest to hold a fly-in because of the spectacular views, uncrowded & uncontrolled airspace, and an air campground that is second to none in the Western United States. At five grand and change field elevation, it is also a heck of a lot cooler than the “lowlands” of Arizona this time of year!
We decided that while the restaurant was nice, we would rather spend more time out on the ramp talking airplanes
and swapping lies and less time ordering and scrambling in the restaurant. So…we packed up our picnic baskets, moved the picnic tables in the beautiful Payson Air Campground under some nice shade trees right next to the taxiway and proceeded to have ourselves a good old-fashioned Saturday picnic! Lots of food & fun, comparing notes on airplanes and general pilot B.S.! While we ate, we had some special guests join us to talk about some more fun flying activities. AACAs’ own Kent Densley & his lovely wife, Gretchen came in all the way from the AACA HQ in Florida to speak to all the attendees and spread the word about AACA. The crowd enjoyed Kents’ presentation as well as a short talk from our own Mark Spencer from the Recreational Aviation Foundation (http://www.theraf.org/) on the RAF mission and efforts at preserving back country airstrips. Asa Dean and Tommy Thomason from the Arizona Pilots Association (http://www.azpilots.org/) briefed us on some fun and challenging flying opportunities that we all can participate in. The speakers all complimented one another, with the common thread among everyone that we are all working towards the same goal….helping pilots have fun & seek out new adventures in our aircraft. We want to thank everyone who spoke, but especially Kent & Gretchen who came across three time zones to join us!
The Saturday picnic was just the tip of the iceberg, as seventeen (19) devout AACA’ers and future AACA’ers came early on Friday & stayed over Saturday night at the Payson Airport Campground. The gang didn’t feel like breaking up the party early, so we built ourselves a regulation Boy Scout campfire (it’s truly amazing how much more efficient the fire started after an assist from a jar of 100LL filched from Tommys’ Cub parked nearby! Sure a lot quicker than the ole’ Eagle Scout method of rubbin’ two sticks together!….sorry, Kent!) After lighting the “Towering Inferno” we broke out the marshmallows for some ‘smores and enjoyed two evenings of fun and camaraderie as well as more than a few “adult beverages” as we sat around the campfire. Mark Spencer not only briefed us on the activities of the RAF that day, but also borrowed a guitar from Jake McKernan and entertained the crowd ‘round the light of the campfire…a true renaissance man! We heard a strange sound emanating from the campground and thought that one of the resident elk that inhabit the woods around the airport was coming in for a mating call. A couple of our “elk look-alike” air campers were getting a little worried about the possible conjugal visit, but to our relief we discovered it was just pilot Jerry Barfuss belting out a few notes on his “arp horn” (i.e. the Ricola cough drops ads!) that he had thrown in his Grumman Super Cheetah. Jerry also decided that he would bring his bugle to sound reveille in the morning. Not so much fun if you didn’t feel like getting up right then!
The winners for longest distance flown goes to a trifecta of birds that scrambled from from up in Utah to attend.
Jerry & Mary Barfus from Beautiful Bountiful; Kurt Larson from Sandy, and Dennis King & Catalina Rosales from Sandy. Our other states were well represented as well with Tommy Thomason, Mark & Stefanie Spencer, Kent & Gretchen Densley, Ken Nebrig, Richard & Gale Marsland, Glen Green; Jim & Qing Hefner, Hugh Goring, Jim & Gerry Landers, Asa & Cheryl Dean, Bob Rogell, Jake McKernan, Ted Maurin, Lorrie Nebrig, Martin Thomas & Pam Davis, as well as Rhonda and Al Hancock in their beautiful new (to them) Grumman Cheetah that they picked up a month ago. It was such a nice change to see some children actually enjoying the fly-in as well. Alisha & Ceejay Pestana, Aidan and Evan McKernan as well as our usual ramp manager, James Nebrig, spent their days motoring on the taxiways (much to the Payson Police chagrin) in their scooters and the nights burning up marshmallows! Great to see some kids for a change! It all would have fallen apart without our loyal ground crew of Steve and Willie Pestana who made frequent runs into town for snacks, ice and cold adult beverages.
On a personal note…It was sure a lot of fun to meet Kent & Gretchen, fellow AACA’ers and other air camping enthusiasts who joined us this year for our Payson adventure. Everyone was so excited to get together and share our love of flying and camping now that the weather out this way is getting bearable.
New Horizons…New Friends. Couldn’t say it better myself! AACA means fun flying and exciting adventures. It’s time to quit thinking about it and just pull the plane out of the hangar and get going. If any fellow AACA’ers out here in the Four Corners region would like to get together and do some air camping, just drop me a line! The plane is always gassed up and ready to go! See you by the campfire!
AACA Member – Arizona