The Breakfast Club

An Affiliate of the Arizona Pilots Assn


The Knife & Fork


Breakfast Club Visits Navajo Nation, Holiday Inn



12 Jul 2003
by Warren McIlvoy

When the
Breakfast Club "crack" event committee met last November to set-up this year's itinerary, one of the preconceived notions was, "go north in the summer for cooler locations". So north we went, but it was not much cooler. Kayenta was the target for the July event which is north--202 miles north, but at 104 degrees at about 1100, is not what I would particularly classify as "cooler". More on that later.

Since the
Navajo Reservation observes daylight savings time, I had moved-back our usual arrival time by a half an hour to give us a slight margin for the late arrivals. As such, this required an 0645 departure time from Scottsdale. That was OK as it afforded us with a little cooler weather at that hour of the morning. And, as is usually the case, the air was quite smooth over the valley mountains. Our direct course would take us just to the west of Payson, over the Mogollon Rim (where we now picked-up a 15kt headwind), and about 24 miles west of Winslow. Once past Winslow, there is very little of notable terrain save for some very widely scattered settlements consisting of little more than one or two structures. The one exception to that condition is the strip mining operation about 25 miles southwest of Kayenta. There is a private, paved airstrip called "Bedard" associated with this operation. As I recall, this mining operation at Black Mesa, is the source of coal for the power plant at Page. The coal is crushed and mixed with water to form a "slurry" and then pumped via a pipeline to the power plant.

And speaking of Black Mesa, it is an imposing geological feature of almost 8200', just a mere 4 miles from the
Kayenta airport. Crossing the ridge line at about 9000' and then trying to smoothly enter the traffic pattern, would prove to be an inefficient endeavor. Instead, most of us opted to cross a smaller, lower arm of Black Mesa that essentially runs from southwest to northeast at a point of about 20 miles to the southwest. This allowed us to follow the highway (State route 160) that runs between Black Mesa and Navajo National Monument.

Once below the mesa ridge line, position reports to the rest of the Breakfast Club gang, were no longer possible. Instead, our attention was no focused on approaching the Kayenta Airport and listening in on reports from aircraft in the pattern. The only down side of this approach, is that aircraft departing Kayenta to the south or southwest, must also use this "canyon" as they would not be able to climb to an altitude sufficient to clear the Mesa. So it is a case of keep a keen eye pealed for opposing traffic. It is a good idea to announce your position in this canyon on the CTAF for Kayenta to alert departing aircraft that you are over the highway inbound.

After landing on runway 23, you must continue on the runway until reaching the turn-off to the ramp area near the southwest end of the runway. There were a number of other
Breakfast Club aircraft already there with available parking spaces becoming scarce. The last time that I was here, about 6-8 years ago, the old, gravel runway ran parallel to the highway and ended at a small general store. As I recall, the runway was very rough, like landing on railroad ties. The restaurant in the Holiday Inn, was a good fifteen minute hike down the highway to the west. As we walked down the airport access road towards the highway, I could clearly discern the outline of the old runway that was now mostly covered by sand and desert flora.

The Holiday Inn is just to the west of the only traffic light in Kayenta and sits back just far enough from the highway, to not see it until you get within a 100 yards or so. The Inn had a fairly large dinning area that is typical of the Holiday Inn genre. Most of us opted for the buffet but a few others elected to order from the menu. The hike to the hotel confirmed that it was going to be a hot day here so I decided to enjoy a leisurely meal and to relish to cool indoors of the hotel.

After breakfast, most of our group started the trek back to the airport that included a stop at the
Navajo craft shop that was along the way. There were two people that were hampered a bit by knee problems so I inquired of the hotel desk staff if there was anyone available to take some folks back to the airport. Darrell Cornford, the Assistant General Manager, volunteered his services but he only had a small pick-up truck that could only transport two folks at a time. I said that would suit us just fine.

Now back at the airport, the tarmac was hot enough to melt an ice queen. The thought about flying north in the Arizona summer for cooler climates, was by now, just a myth. One of our people had flown-in in a C-150 that required a stop in Winslow for fuel. He had planned on making another stop on the return trip. A few others elected to make a fuel stop there also, but since the first leg was just at 2 hours, I elected to make the trip home, non-stop. I did our run-up on the access way to the runway to minimize the time on the runway. Since the runway had a slight down-hill slope to the east, we all decided to depart on 5 and then turn to the southwest. I followed the highway back to the canyon between the two mountain ranges and hugged the south side of the canyon to take advantage of the uplift supplied by the rising air caused by the winds out of the north, reacting to the upward slope of the mountains to the south. This added lift allowed us to make our turn to the southwest in a reasonably short period of time.

I could hear a couple of other aircraft following that same path with one of them being the C-150. He was having a difficult time gaining altitude due to the hot temperatures. I suggested to him that he hug the south side of the canyon to take advantage of the same updrafts that I had used just a few minutes earlier. I leveled-off at 8500' for our leg home but the smooth air in the morning, had now become quite agitated. Holding heading and altitude, was a losing proposition. To make matters worst, the air temperature was in the mid 70's unlike the lower 60's that we have been accustomed to. Other than the warm temperatures and the occasionally moderate turbulence, the return flight was quiet and uneventful. Can the cooler climes of the Fall be far away? I hope not.

The Kayenta Group


  • Warren & Jeri-Ann McIlvoy in 4544X, BC-1
  • Glen & Judy Yoder in 31TC, BCV-007
  • Tim Yoder and Trent Heidtke in 4638W, BC-112
  • Jerry Spendley and Ken Epstein in 95626, BC-182
  • Jeremy Grogan
  • Harold DarcAngelo in 320HD, BC-32
  • Don Graminske in 9064V, BC-16
  • Ed McMahan in 2433B
  • Joe & Diane Stockwell in 843CD, BC-22
  • Eric Crump in 8747U
  • Roger & Joanna Pries in 13806


What's Next?

The August event for the
Breakfast Club will see us making a "run for the border", well, sort of. We will actually be going to Nogales, Arizona, and Angies Airport Café Larry Tiffin manages the airport and Tiffin Aviation, a small flight school and FBO, and his wife runs the little café in the terminal building. In September, we will be traveling north again to Holbrook and the world famous(?) Denney's located on famed Route 66. You don't want to miss that one. That's all for now, but remember, fly safe.


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