Many fellow Arizona aviators look at the impressive array of backcountry fly-ins that the Arizona Pilots Association and the Recreational Aviation Foundation with envy. While these fly-ins sure look like a lot of fun, the sad reality is that with low wings and a low-slung prop, many of our airplanes could never be confused for backcountry machines. Most of the great air camping adventures tend to be reserved for those folks with taildragging, short/rough field airplanes.

2019 3 payson a backcountry fly in that every airplane can make tent site

For those Arizona pilots who are in the same boat as us (you know who you are – your Cherokee, Bonanza, or RV-6 just doesn’t have balloon tires or a STOL kit), don’t despair! Arizona aviators are fortunate to have one of the absolute best air camping facilities in the country just sixty miles or so northeast of Phoenix as the crow flies up in Payson, Arizona. Best of all…this campground is right in the middle of a modern municipal airport, nestled in the trees at Payson Regional Airport (KPAN). Payson features a 5,500’ x 75’ paved and lighted runway with plenty of paved parking right next to the campground as well. Come with room in the fuel tanks, as Payson features some of the cheapest 100LL prices in the state.

2019 3 payson a backcountry fly in that every airplane can make good company

Our annual AYA/APA/RAF Payson Fly-In and Air Camping Weekend will be held on April 5-7. Throw your tent and sleeping bag in the plane and join us for lunch, (APA to provide for any donation), and a “Dutch oven” potluck dinner and overnight stay at the campground. You camp just a few yards from your airplane, with nearby bathrooms and hot showers! After the potluck dinner, we’ll enjoy the sounds of our favorite around-the-campfire musician, Barry Dillie, who will playing his guitar and providing the evening’s entertainment.

2019 3 payson a backcountry fly in that every airplane can make singing by the campfire

Please plan to participate in Saturday night’s tradition of Dutch oven cooking, and plan a side dish as well. You’ll be impressed with other’s recipes for sure as you try out some of the best cam cooking in the country! Don’t know how to cook? No problem, as Payson is also the home of one of the best airport restaurants in the country, Crosswinds Café.

For those who have never been air camping at Payson (or even air camping at all!), you couldn’t find a better place to “go back country” for the first time. Payson Airport Campground features individual campsites right next to the paved aircraft ramp, fire rings with free firewood, grills, running water, real bathrooms (you know…the kind that have sinks and flushing toilets), as well as HOT showers! Sure, you can tell all your friends that you were “roughing it,” but only you and your fellow air campers will know the true story. The campground has the best views of the spectacular Mogollon Rim in the state!

If you want to stay overnight, but your idea of “roughing it” is a motel, then come up anyway as we’ve reserved the courtesy car for the group, so we can shuttle people back and forth to the airport.

2019 3 payson a backcountry fly in that every airplane can make plenty of food

Children are ALWAYS welcome at our fly-ins. The kids have plenty of room to roam at KPAN, and we always stock up on marshmallows, graham crackers, and Hershey bars for the kids to enjoy s’mores by the campfire. So, load the kids and grandkids up in your plane and bring them along! The cost of the weekend - nothing but your gas and food. The memories that you will make with them – PRICELESS!

So, fellow Arizona Aviators…it is time to pull the plane out of the hangar and set a course for Payson the first weekend in April to join your fellow APA’ers for some fun and fellowship around the campfire.

We would like to ask you to RSVP, just so we can make sure to have enough food for lunch, etc. Please text your name, number of people attending and your aircraft type to (928) 273-0042.

For further information, you can e-mail James Nebrig at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

We look forward to seeing you there!

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