The Breakfast Club

An Affiliate of the Arizona Pilots Assn



The Knife & Fork




Breakfast Club Visits Marble Canyon

& Over-Flys the Grand Canyon






16 April 2011

by Warren McIlvoy



Over the many years that the Breakfast Club has been doing our monthly breakfast fly-ins, we inevitably develop favorites.  There are no particular criteria applied in classifying a location a “favorite” but some things that stand out are: a scenic flight, good food at the destination, or maybe the location has that “airplane” feeling when you get there.  One such destination encompasses most of those qualities and a “hands down” lock on the scenic part.  Marble Canyon (L41) and the Marble Canyon Lodge & Trading post are located in one of the most scenic locations anywhere. 


 Getting There………….


From Deer Valley Airport, it is a straight shot to our first waypoint at Zuni Alpha on the south rim of the Grand Canyon.  Along the way we will cross over the Verde Valley just east of Mingus Mountain and Cottonwood.  At the north end of the valley lays the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Area that is noted for its rugged red rock canyons.  Just ahead we pass over I-40 between Flagstaff and Williams and then pass between Sitgeraves Mountain and Kendrick Peak.  Once past these notable landmarks, we fly over high plateau ground that has a distinct lack of the tall pines but does have a smattering of volcanic cones and vents with the occasional lava field.


Along the way we are talking to other Breakfast Club folks that will be joining us this morning and we exchange position reports along with any noted head or tailwinds.  As we get closer to the Grand Canyon, I noticed an opaque haze off to the east that I hoped would not hinder the dazzling view once we were over the canyon.  Some of our folks were avoiding the canyon overflight by flying up along state rout 89 and approaching Marble Canyon from the east.  There were at least three of us willing to experience this wonder from above by crossing to the north rim via the Zuni and Dragon Corridors.  As we approached the Zuni Alpha waypoint, I could see that the haze did not extend to the canyon and we would have a terrific view of this natural wonder.  Upon reaching Zuni Alpha, I dialed-in the next waypoint of Zuni Bravo that is on the north rim.  From the south rim of the canyon to Marble Canyon it about 50-miles but it is packed with breathtaking scenery.  The Zuni Corridor parallels the eastern rim of the canyon and at points, just to the west of the Colorado River.  The array of colors of the canyon formations is simply spectacular and the confluence of the Little Colorado River and the Colorado River is quite unique.  At times, the Colorado River is a muddy brown and where the two rivers meet, you can distinctly see the melding of the Nile green of the Little Colorado River as it merges with muddy waters of its “big brother”. 


All too soon we reach the north rim and begin our descent into the airstrip at Marble Canyon.  Our course parallels the deep canyon gorge of the Colorado River and is between the Echo Cliffs to the east and the Vermillion Cliffs to the west.  In between these two prominent geographic formations is the broad valley that is split by the deep river canyon gorge.  As we get closer to the airstrip, I changed the radio to the CTAF to both give position reports as well as determining where other folks are in the pattern.  Since we were using left traffic for runway 3, we passed over the departure end of runway 21 and entered a left downwind.  After touching-down on the narrow, rough runway, I continued the roll-out into the “dogleg” that turns into the ramp parking area.  A good number of our folks had already arrived but there was no problem with finding a parking spot.  We pushed the airplane back and secured the nose wheel with one of the many rocks that were available in the immediate area. 


Some people had already crossed the highway to the trading post and restaurant.  I waited around a bit to get some photos of the arriving aircraft to see if anyone needed help in pushing their airplane into the parking spot.  The airstrip office is actually in a corner of the trading post and you are supposed to sign-in there after landing.  Many folks don’t know that and the person behind the counter gave me the sign-in clipboard and I took it to the dinning room so that our pilots could sign-in.  The first wave of our group completely filled the long table in the first dinning area so the rest of us sat in another room that also had a long table but a bit shorter that the first one.  Even at that, some of the Breakfast Club folks chose to use some of the booths that were along the wall.  Historically, whenever we visited this location, I would opt for the breakfast buffet but this time I opted for a more traditional omelet.  As our orders began to arrive, I was shocked at the size of the portions.  When I returned the sign-in clipboard to the airport office, some of the folks in the other room had gotten most of their orders and one person had ordered a “stack” of pancakes.  There were 3 pancakes that were at lest 8-9” across.  I asked him if he was going to share these with 3 other people.  Everything that we ordered came in huge portions and in many cases, was enough for two people.  Before everyone finished eating, I walked around getting some photos prior to us heading up to the Navajo Bridge that is about a quarter mile north of the trading post.  


Almost immediately north of the trading post and lodge is the turn-off to Lee’s Ferry where almost all of the river floats begin.  Just a little bit further is entry to the parking lot of what is now the visitor’s center for the old bridge.  About 12-15 years ago, a new, wider Navajo Bridge was constructed that now handles all of the vehicle traffic.  The old bridge was very narrow and was not really compatible with today’s larger trucks and cars.  The old bridge is now a pedestrian only crossing that affords a majestic view of the Colorado River as it wends its way to the Grand Canyon to the south.  It is not uncommon to see rafters floating down the river at a leisurely rate and enjoying the beginnings of some of the most spectacular scenery that they will ever see.  On the east end of the bridge there are a number of Indian vendors offering jewelry that would appeal to most any taste.  Back on the bridge, the photos opportunities are endless.  I took some shots of our group using the mountains and river as a backdrop.  I also took some close-up shots of some raters as they floated down the river.   After all the ooohs and aaahs were finished, we started the short hikes back to the airstrip. 


After getting loaded-up and firing-up the engine, we taxied away from the ramp a bit to avoid throwing debris on the aircraft that were still parked behind us.  I performed a “soft field” takeoff procedure to help alleviate some of the vibrations caused by the rough runway.  We slowly climbed away and above a deep canyon that is just off the end of the runway.  I then turned to the east to retrace our arrival path and to travel the Zuni Corridor to the south.  Since it was now several hours later, the view over the Grand Canyon took on a slight different view as we were a 1,000’ lower and the sun was higher in the sky.  The turbulence was not too bad for this time of the day.  It had been a while since we were here last but overflying the Grand Canyon is never boring and always breathtaking.


The Marble Canyon Gang


  • Warren & Jeri-Ann McIlvoy with Mike Bauer and Pat Burris in 93MB, BC-1 & 1.5
  • Adam Rosenberg with Dave Pogge and Ruhl Dhawan in 8377W, BC-72
  • Paul Fortune and Allan Wallace in 31870, BC-201
  • Glen & Judy Yoder in 31TC, BC-007
  • Andy & Gykza Elliott in 601GE
  • Rich Kupiec and Austin Erwin in 6693M, BC47 & 86
  • Austin Goodwin in 4351X, BC-317
  • Tom Roche in 2931M, BC-31
  • Peter Duran in 358JC
  • Larry Jensen in 14LJ, BC-65
  • John & Kyoko Gentile in 25ER
  • Tony & Dominique McCormack
  • Brian Briggerman in 601AZ
  • Steve and Joe Loyer in 8968M
  • Greg Coomans, Doug Doehrman and Libby Vance in 2493Q, BC-48 & 77
  • Richard Spiegel, Sam Foote, and Richard Batwick in 901KA, BC-3


What’s Next?


The first of our two annual overnight events will be to Henderson, NV with an overnight stay in Las Vegas.  In June, we will be traveling to the north again but a bit further east to Mesquite, NV with breakfast at the Wolf Creek Golf Resort.  We have not been to Mesquite for a while so this should be a great trip considering that we will be flying over the western end of the Grand Canyon; now what is wrong with that??  That’s all for now but remember, fly safe.


To view photos of the fly-in event, just click on the Marble Canyon Event