The Breakfast Club 
The Knife & Fork 
The Breakfast Club Visits Payson, Crosswinds Restaurant

By Warren McIlvoy
8 December 01

With our December event falling pretty much in the middle of the holiday season, our event committee chose to keep the December event simple and a relatively short distance. What could be more simple or close-in than a fly-in to Payson and the Crosswinds Restaurant? But what is there to write about regarding a place that most of us have been to more than thirty times? There is usually nothing unusual about the destination nor is there anything spectacular about the route and the geography over a 51 mile distance. But in the real world of flying, even the most mundane trip can contain just a few little subtleties to make them interesting to even the most jaded weekend aviator.

As Payson is usually only about a thirty minute trip, it did not require getting up a "oh dark thirty" and doing a pre-flight inspection in the dark. The weather, verified by looking out the window, appeared to be excellent with nary a cloud in sight. At about 0730, I received a call from one of our regular attendees to say that he had phoned the AWOS at Payson and that it was reporting winds in the 20 to 28 knot range. These reported conditions prompted him to reconsider his launching for Payson that morning. Standing out in my front yard, yielded no indication of any winds at all save for an occasional lite waft of wind. With the conditions that I could see and with the information garnered by my remote weather reporting observer, I decided to launch for a "look-see" at Payson since it was so close. I figured that when we got there and conditions were less than favorable, that we would still have plenty of time to go to an alternate location for the morning fly-in.

We launched from Scottsdale's runway 3 with our usual "straight-out" departure for Payson. As we neared the McDowell Mountains, we began experiencing some lite turbulence but nothing unusual. By the time that we had passed the north end of the mountain, I began noticing a drop in our ground speed but we were still in a climb attitude so this did not provide much of a clue as to what we would experience in just a few more minutes. By this time, most of the other Breakfast Club folks were in the air with some about 5-8 mile ahead of us. I leveled-off at about 7,000' as this would provide an ample margin to cross the mountain ridge that is 10 miles southwest of Payson. The ride was reasonably smooth but my ground speed was terrible. At this altitude, we about a 30-35 knot headwind. Some folks were several thousand feet higher but they did not get any break with their altitude advantage. The Mazatzal Mountains provide a barrier between our location and Payson so, from our present location, we could not pick-up the AWOS broadcast of the local weather conditions.

As we neared the mountain ridge, the turbulence became a little bit more enthusiastic but by this time, I was able to clearly hear the AWOS broadcast out of Payson. What do you know, the winds were reported as being out of the southeast at only 4 knots. This report was a good indication that the strong northerly winds, were really an upper level issue and that once we passed the ridge line and start down into the valley, that our ground speed would increase and that conditions at PAN would be great. I tuned-in the CTAF to learn that everyone was using right traffic for Payson runway 6. The faster aircraft had, for all intents, arrived at about the same time and therefore, created a bit of congestion in the pattern. I guess there is at least one advantage in having one of the slower aircraft in our group and that is that, usually the congestion had dissipated by the time that I get there. The down side is that you usually get the left over parking spots. In the case of Payson, the ramp in front of the restaurant was full and I had to park in the newer east ramp area.

For those not entirely familiar with some of the history of the Payson airport and the Crosswinds Restaurant, I will fill you in as my memory permits. When I first started flying into the Payson airport back in the early 80's, the restaurant consisted of two trailers joined as the ends to form an "L". They were small and seating was in short supply but the most appealing item was that the food was good and reasonably priced. Another interesting item was that the unicom radio was in the very same restaurant and the guy that might be flipping your flapjacks would also double as the unicom operator. So, depending on how busy the cook was, was directly related to how prompt was your response when you called-in for airport advisories. Some years later, the station was relocated to another facility on the ramp. About 7 years ago, the old trailers were removed for an honest to goodness restaurant building. The new structure was considerable larger and featured an array of picture windows along the north side that afforded a panoramic view of the Mogollon Rim to the north.

Payson Airport                                                                Payson Airport

Another nice thing about the airport was that there was very little development around the airport area. The airport is situated on a ridge about 2 miles due north of the main downtown Payson area. As time went on and the airport became more popular with the $100 hamburger crowd, development of the vacant areas around the airport was soon to follow. There is currently an industrial area right at the approach end of runway 6 and residential development filling in the rest of the area. The only area that is not yet filled-in is adjacent and to the north of the runway but I believe that this is National Forest Land. One local legend that still survives to this day, is the "weather reporting station" that is located just outside the FBO's office located on the ramp in front of the restaurant. The "weather station" consists of three poles about 5-6' long tied together at one end to form a "tripod". A moderately large river rock was suspended by a rope that was attached at the juncture of the "tripod". A sign along side the "station" explained how to read the "rock". It said that if the rock was wet----rain, if it were white----frost or snow, if it were swaying--windy, if it was gone--tornado.

Some of the enduring features that remain to this day, are the dramatic views and the good food. The Breakfast Club group gathered in a separate dinning area that originally began as an open air patio but was closed-in to become an overflow diningroom. After breakfast, most of our group gathered on the ramp to inspect some of the parked aircraft that were there. When it was time to make the return trip back to the valley, I decided that I did not want to go back via the same route that I took to get there earlier in the morning.

With the winds being what there were, I suspected that I would be back at SDL in less that 25 minutes. Since it was such a nice day, this was not really what I wanted. With this in mind, I chose to go back to town via the Tonto Basin and Roosevelt Lake. I departed Payson runway 24 to the south (after observing their noise abatement procedure) and climbed to about 6500'. The air was relatively smooth but, would you believe, I encountered an 8 knot headwind. I was under the impression that having a headwind in both directions, was illegal. As we were sightseeing anyway, this little obstacle was of little consequence. When I had arrived at the suspension bridge that was near the old Roosevelt Dam, I turned to the southwest to follow the Salt River back to the valley. I had no sooner established our coarse when suddenly, my ground speed zoomed up to the mid 140's. It seems that we had finally taken advantage of the exhilarating tailwind. The accompanying turbulence was not much more than lite to occasionally moderate the balance of the way back to Scottsdale.

The Payson Gang

What's Next?

The January 2002 event of the Breakfast Club will kick-off our 8th year of fly-in events. As such, we will be making an encore visit to Sedona, Arizona (SEZ). In February, we will be going to Palm Springs and to Cactus Jacks Restaurant. That's all for now but remember, fly safe.