An Affiliate of The Arizona Pilots Assn.
The Knife & Fork
Breakfast Club Visits Ajo Country Club
9 January 2010
by Warren McIlvoy
The 17th year of Breakfast Club fly-ins got off to a rousing start
with a fly-in to the historic and tourist Mecca of the state, Ajo, Arizona.
I believe that it was in the late 90's that we last visited this "idyllic"
spot in the southern deserts of Arizona. At that time, I was flying out
of Scottsdale and I chose to transition the Phoenix airspace and arrive
in Ajo from the east and avoiding the restricted airspace that all but surrounds
this small mining community. Now, flying out of Deer Valley Airport,
I elected to run the gauntlet from Gila Bend to Ajo via state
On this day, the bombing and gunnery ranges on either side of the highway
were active which required you to get clearance from Gila Bend Range
Control and then fly down St Rte 85 at 500' agl. I contacted
Range Control while I was still 12-miles to the north of E63
and they promptly gave me C-152 traffic at the junction of St Rte 85 &
I-8. I was about 13-miles from that location and I seriously doubt
that I could even spot a 747 at that distance. The Good Year blimp maybe,
but not a 152. I initially had a little difficulty spotting Rte 85
from about an altitude of 2000' but I did notice a rather large white building
just to the east of a south heading highway and Range Control confirmed
would be the highway that I was looking for. They reminded me of the 500'
agl altitude restriction and I promptly inquired as to the altitude of the
highway. Range Control responded that it was "866' msl". I informed
them I would remain at 1400' msl while over the highway. Range Control
also requested that I report reaching "Black Gap" which was a
prominent landmark that was really a gap between to mountain tops.
I reported "Black Gap" and Range Control instructed me to
contact "Snake Eye" on another frequency. Snake Eye reiterated
the 500' restriction over the highway and report reaching the "craters";
It almost seemed surreal. Here we were doing what was a "strafing run" down
the highway and talking to Snake Eye and looking for the craters at
the south end of the corridor. I believed that I would be looking for bomb
craters on either side of the highway but in reality, this was an area of
cone-like rock formations that straddled the highway. The terrain also begins
to rise at this point so I initiated a slow climb to about 1700' and reported
to Snake Eye that I was about 4.5-miles south of Ajo airport.
Snake Eye approved a frequency change for CTAF at Ajo. Since
we were the last to arrive, there was no other traffic in the pattern for
The Ajo Airport was a relic of WWII and the ramp was quite large
and with a large contingent of Breakfast Club aircraft, we hardly
make a dent in the available acreage. Upon pushing my aircraft into the
parking space, I noted an SUV (most likely from the Border Patrol) keeping
an eye on the unusual activities for the somewhat remote location. The Ajo
Country Club is just a short hike down the gravel road so we took a short
cut through the desert scrub to the road that rims the Country Club
For he benefit of those who are not familiar with the "garden spot", let
me insert some history garnered from Wikipedia.
ah-ho) is the Spanish word for garlic. The Spanish may have named the place
using the familiar word in place of the similar-sounding O'odham word for
paint (o?oho). The Tohono O'odham people obtained red paint pigments from
Native Americans, Spaniards and Americans have all extracted mineral wealth
from Ajo's abundant ore deposits. In the early nineteenth century, there
was a Spanish mine nicknamed "Old Bat Hole" that was abandoned due to Indian
raids. The first Anglo to pass through the Ajo area, Tom Childs, Sr., found
the deserted mine complete with a 60-foot (18 m) shaft, mesquite ladders,
and rawhide buckets in 1847. He did not stay long at that time, because he
was on his way to the silver mines near Magdalena de Kino, Sonora.
Three and a half decades later, Childs and his son returned with a friend
and started developing the abandoned mine.
In the year 1884, the camp at Ajo was practically abandoned. Not a soul
was in camp when Tom Childs Sr., and his son arrived. With them was Washington
Michael Jacobs of Tucson, Arizona...Childs and Jacobs located the mining
claim which constituted most of the old Ajo group of mines. They made a permanent
camp and worked the mines... - The Ancient Mines of Ajo by Dan Rose
High-grade native copper made Ajo the first copper mine in Arizona. Soon
the Arizona Mining & Trading company, formed by Peter M. Brady, a friend
of Childs, worked the rich surface ores, shipping loads around Cape Horn
for smelting in Swansea, Wales, in the mid 1880s. The mine closed when a ship
sank off the coast of Patagonia. Long supply lines and the lack of water
discouraged large mining companies
With the advent of new recovery methods for low-grade ore, Ajo boomed.
In 1911, Col. John Campbell Greenway, a Rough Rider and star Yale athlete,
bought the New Cornelia mine from John Boddie. He became general manager
of the Calumet and the Arizona mining company and expanded it on a grand scale.
In 1921, Phelps Dodge, the nation's largest copper company, bought New Cornelia
and the mine became the New Cornelia Branch of Phelps Dodge, managed by Michael
Curley. For several decades more than 1,000 men worked for Phelps Dodge
in the open pit mine. The mine closed in 1985, following a bitter strike
and a depressed copper market. Ajo is now home to many retired people, to
Border Patrol agents, and young families.
As we neared the Country Club, we noticed an opening in the wire
fence that was framed in pipe with a sign hanging from the top indicating
"entrance to country club". We passed several rows of small hangar-like
sheds with numbers painted on them. I have no clue as to their purpose other
than maybe they are storage for golf carts or the like. Upon entering the
clubhouse, you immediately come through a dinning area and counter but we
were promptly directed to a much larger dinning area off to the right. The
room was pretty full as were most of the tables but we did find two empty
chairs at a table. It took us 25-minutes to get out of DVT so we were the
"tail-end turtles" for this event.
It did not take long to place our food orders and we were quickly swept
into the conversations at our table. The most disappointing feature of
this location was that it took almost an hour and a half to get our order.
The food was good and the least expensive of any of our fly-in locations
but we have now identified two locations that can not handle a large influx
of starring aviators, Ajo and Kingman. These locations are best
suited for a group of no more than ten people at a time. The one advantage
is, I guess, that I had plenty of time to get some group photos since there
was no one at the airport when we arrived. By the time that we got our food,
most of the other folks had already left for the hike to the airport. We
decided to move to a table that still have about 6-people left.
Two people in our group brought their golf clubs with them and chose to
play a round of golf before returning to the valley. I have no clue as
to the rates but the course is no slouch when it come to yardage at around
By the time that we got back to the airport there were only about 6 planes
left on the ramp. There is no taxiway at P01 so you must back-taxi
to runway 12. There was no wind and using runway 12 would allow you to take-off
and gain some altitude and some distance from the airport before changing
frequency for Snake Eye. The return routine was the same for northbound
as it was southbound, report leaving the "craters" and reaching "black
gap". At "black gap" Range Control deleted the altitude restriction
and a short time later, gave me clearance for direct navigation. I headed
to my way-point at the north end of the White Tank Mountains and
turned east towards Deer Valley. Luke Approach was now closed so
I just listened in on the south runway at DVT. It was still a zoo
and I was instructed to hold outside the Class D airspace. After one complete
turn, tower requested that I contact the north tower for further clearance.
OH NO, a crowed airport runway and having to run the gauntlet to cross the
south runway to get to the hangar did not have much appeal. But to my surprise,
I got quick clearance to cross the south runway and taxi to parking; I was
almost in shock.
It was a beautiful day for flying and I had an opportunity to experience
the St Rte 85 corridor with an active restricted area and a strafing
run down the highway. It does not get much better than this.
The Ajo Bunch
- Warren & Jeri-Ann McIlvoy in 93MB,
BC-1 & 1.5
- Mert Bean and James Murphy in 5882R
- Sean Gallagher in 8483R
- Trevor Smith in C-152
- Jim Abrahan in 305L
- Jerry & Nancy Grout with John &
Flo Acheson in 1129T
- Tim Yoder and Trent Heidtke, BC-52 &
- Austin Goodwin, BC-317
- Larry Jensen, BC-65
- Don Graminski and Sam Smieja in 9064V,
- Dan Tollman in 5975L
- Joe Williams in 2424L
- Adam Rosenberg in 4372J, BC-72
- Richard Spiegel and Nancy Shore, Sam &
Tami Foote, in 901KA, BC-3 & BC-53
- Richard Azimov and Mike Weber in 6864Q,
- Ken Calman in 605US, BC-6
- Dave Steiner in 204MA
- Steve Gavette and Greg Cooman in 428DW
- Austin Erwin and Rich Kupiec in 2493Q,
BC-86 & BC-47
- Harold & Phyllis Thomas in 9922P
Our February Breakfast Club event
will see us traveling to Lake Havasu and the "new" Havasu Airport.
The last time that we were here, we landed on the California side
of the river and took the boat across the lake. We will be dining at a
restaurant just up from the boat dock. In March we will be flying to an
old favorite, Seligman, Arizona and West Side Lilo's Café.
That is all for now but remember, fly safe.
To view photos of this event, click on Ajo