The Breakfast Club

An Affiliate of the Arizona Pilots Assn

The Knife & Fork


Breakfast Club Visits Historic Tombstone, Top of the Hill Restaurant




By Warren McIlvoy
8 Mar 2003

If success were to be defined by shear numbers, then the March, 2003 Breakfast Club event to Tombstone, Arizona, was a block buster by this definition.  The first ever Breakfast Club outing to this historic location, drew 35 aviation enthusiasts to the "town to tough to die".  The weather "gods" were also smiling on us by providing a warm, bright, sun shinny day, that only contributed to the festivities. This turn-out by the Breakfast Club folks was the most attended event in over two years.

My portion of the trip began with a southerly trip through the Phoenix, Class-B airspace towards Firebird Lake and then a turn in the direction of Florence and Coolidge.  This area of the state is predominately flat, unremarkable desert, with one exception; this area is one of the most productive cotton producing areas in the entire nation.  Who would ever believe that this would be possible in a "desert"?  Continuing on to the southeast, we could soon discern the "stacks" that denote the old copper mining and smelting activity of San Manuel.  The smelters, I believe, were closed-down years ago as it was not economically feasible to bring them up to the standards set by the EPA for emissions.  Although not very far from the thriving cotton producing communities, this area's economic health is strictly defined by copper prices. 

Immediately at our two o'clock position, looms the Santa Catalina and Rincon Mountains separated by Redington Pass.  The Catalina Mountains provide an impressive backdrop for the metropolis of Tucson, Arizona located just to the south of the mountains.  The Mt Lemon Ski Resort is situated on the north side of the Catalinas and we could clearly see it on the northern slope of the mountain.  A little further south, we come upon Interstate 10 and the town of Benson, Arizona.  A few years ago, the town of Benson upgraded  their airport to a paved runway to lure the intrepid aviator to the area and generate tourism for the Karchner Caverns that are just south of the town.  At that time, there were no services at the airport but it is my understanding that development of the airport with fuel and pilot services, is in the works by the town of Benson.

Position reports by other Breakfast Club folks were now getting hot and heavy as we neared the Tombstone Airport that is southeast of the town.  I had visited Tombstone with the Scottsdale Pilots Association about five or six years ago and the runway then was a good paved airstrip with a small paved tie-down area at the southwest corner of the airport.  Some of the air-to-air chatter centered around the condition of the runway as some of the publications defined the surface as "chip-sealed" which would indicate that there was a possibility of some small, loose gravel.  As the runway has a slight up-hill gradient to the southwest, most everyone chose to enter right downwind for runway 24.  Turning final for 24, we could clearly see that there were no runway markings of any kind.  Over the end of the runway at about 50', I could clearly see that the surface of the runway was no longer the nice, smooth, paved surface that I remembered of years ago.  The surface had deteriorated to the point that it was little more than a hard, stable surface with some loose gravel and an ample supply of weeds growing up through the crevices.  However, at the west end of the runway, the access way to the small ramp, was in good condition as was the small ramp area.  There was also the addition of two small hangers that were not there before.  Behind one of the hangers, stood the portable, pilot physiological relief facilities (how's that for a subtle description of a "port-a-john").

A large portion of the Breakfast Club folks had already arrived and parking on the small ramp area was long gone.  I parked along the sloping shoulders of the access way with a growing gaggle of other aircraft.  The first wave of our group had already departed for the Top of the Hill Restaurant as the balance of the Breakfast Club continued to arrive.  By the time that the last three aircraft had arrived, all of the parking had been accounted for with the exception of the level area at the end of the runway and we had three aircraft parked there when all of the arrivals had been completed.  In all, 15 aircraft clogged the sparse airport facilities. Sonny & Tess Adams, our contact people for this event, had arranged for a number of vans to meet our group at the airport and the transportation crew performed admirably.  There was a couple of folks who had small children with them and a van was summoned that had child car seats in it.  Great job folks.

The Top of the Hill Restaurant was on the west end of town and right across the street from Boot Hill Cemetery.   As the food was quite good, I am sure that the proximity of Boot Hill to the Top of the Hill Restaurant,  was just a coincidence.  Our dinning room was to the right of the main entrance and our group took-up the entire area.  After breakfast, I addressed our group to let them know the plans on where the van would meet us and when.  I suggested that the Cochise County Court House, now a state park (actually a museum), would be a good meeting place for the vans in about two to two and a half hours.  The Court House was about a 4-5 block walk from the restaurant and allowed some of us to work-off the morning indulgences. 

I have been to Tombstone on about five occasions and I still find that the Court House is the most interesting aspect of all the historical structures in the town.  I would venture to say that if one were to travel most anywhere in the Western hemisphere, and mention Arizona to people that you would encounter, that they would immediately reply that they have heard of Tombstone.  In Marshall Trimble's (the official historian of Arizona) book, "Arizona, Cavalcade of History" , he describes this part of the state, and Tombstone in particular, as being governed by both the cattle and mining industries during that era.  The "Gun Fight at the OK Corral" was one of the events that arose from that collision of these ideologies.  Few other events in American history, have been romanticized and dramatized as this confrontation of economic interests.  The first floor of the museum has a wall with a graphical depiction and a written, minute by minute account of the events as they unfolded.  The second floor of the Court House contains the actual courtroom that was in use dating back to late 1800's.  As Tombstone was the county seat at that time, many of the county offices were located in the building.  The rear of the first floor contained the county jail and the adjoining courtyard had the infamous gallows.  The gallows that are there now are not the original ones as the forerunner unit was destroyed by fire early in the 20 th century. Below is an excerpt from the Encyclopedia Britannica .

City, Cochise county, southeastern Arizona, U.S. The site was ironically named by Ed Schieffelin, who discovered silver there in 1877 after being told that all he would find would be his tombstone. By 1881 a silver rush had set in with an estimated 7,000 persons in the area. Along with the prospectors came adventurers and outlaws, among whom were "Doc" Holliday and Johnny Ringo, whereupon Tombstone gained a reputation for lawlessness. Feuds were common, the most notable being the gun battle at the O.K. Corral in 1881 between the Earp and Clanton families. The boom days quickly ended with flood waters in the mines, labor strikes, and low silver prices. Tombstone was the county seat from 1881 (when it was incorporated) until 1931. Now a tourist centre and health resort, it retains a pioneer atmosphere and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1962. Restored sites include Boot Hill Cemetery, Bird Cage Theater, the O.K. Corral, and the Tombstone Epitaph (newspaper, 1880) office. Pop. (1990) 1,220.

Upon leaving the Museum, some of us opted to make a short, circular tour of some of the surrounding streets to take in the sights.  One block to the north (I believe it was called Allen Street) was where most of the more famous places of historical nature were located.  The Bird Cage Theater was one block further east from where we toured the main street.  Souvenir shops and saloons dominated the scene as we turned back to the west towards the Court House.  After resting on the Court House steps for about ten minutes and just soaking-up some rays and enjoying the soft breeze, our van arrived to take us back to the airport.

Since most of the aircraft were parking on the gravel shoulders of the access way, we elected to pull all of the aircraft up on the hard paved surface while remaining perpendicular to the length of the pavement.  Once ready, the first aircraft would continue the taxi to the runway and take-off downhill to the east.  As we lifted-off, I made a modified lift downwind turn back towards the town to make a (traditional) low pass at about 600' agl over the heart of town.  At the west end of town, I pulled into a steep climbing, right bank turn towards the north to retrace our morning's arrival route with a slight modification.  We were a little further to the west when we arrived at San Manuel and we turned towards Oracle and the Biosphere.  The rectangular shaped dome is clearly visible from about 5-6 miles away.  About a mile to the north of the dome, I recognized an airstrip that had no makings on it but its intended use was indisputable.  From there, it was just a beeline to the north and the east transition through the Class-b airspace to Scottsdale.

I am sure that all of folks from the Breakfast Club would like to express our sincerest appreciation to Sonny & Tess Adams and all the Tombstone folks who pitched-in to provide our transportation from the airport into town and then back to the airport.   Without that great support on their part, this event could not have happened.  For anyone interested in making transportation arrangements at Tombstone, you can reach Sonny & Tess at: 520-457-3287, or you visit their web site at: .  Thanks again and a tip of the “Royal Knife & Fork" is in order for this fine group of people.  


The Tombstone Gang

  • Warren & Jeri-Ann McIlvoy and Favre Eaton in 4544X, BC-1
  • Allan & Patricia Wallace in 9002V, BC-39
  • Richard & Marcia Azimov and Richard Spiegel in 6864Q, BC-2 & BC-3
  • Joe Stockwell in 258C
  • Ed McMahan in 2433B
  • Don Graminske in 9064V, BC-16
  • John Deptula and Cindy Bailey in 2660W
  • Vance & Cindy and Zac in 51062
  • Paul Fortune in 31870, BC-201T
  • Mike & Keli Samons and Brandey Samons in 5106L
  • Rich and Ryan Brady and Pat Smith in 7302HC
  • Fred Laporte, Larry Berger, Scott Roth, and Christine Gaylor in 8286K
  • Gary & Judy Hedges in 1196L, BC-99
  • Andy Elliott and Rita Locke in 48DE
  • Jon and Judy Miller in 4179N, BC-48
  • Roger & Joanna Pries in 13806

What's Next?

The April Breakfast Club event will see us traveling west to Apple Valley (APV), the home of Roy Rogers, the "King of the Cowboys".  In May, we will be dropping-in on Mesquite, Nevada and the Oasis Casino.  That's all for now, but remember, fly safe.


Click on the Tombstone link to view photos of this fly-in event.