The Breakfast Club

An Affiliate of the Arizona Pilots Assn

The Knife & Fork



Breakfast Club Visits Marble Canyon, Crosses Grand Canyon Twice

  By Warren McIlvoy
12 Oct 2002

In the nearly 9 years that the Breakfast Club has been doing our monthly fly-out events, there are a handful of destinations, that stand head and shoulders above the others in their shear magnitude of the breathtaking scenery where they are located. It is not always the great food ( or, in some cases, not so great) that attracts our attention, but the magnificent panoramas that compels us to keep returning to a particular location. The October event was such an event. Marble Canyon was the focus of our intentions on a beautiful Saturday morning. Another facet of this event, is the fact that we crossed the Grand Canyon twice in one day. By itself, Marble Canyon is spectacular in its own right but throw-in an aerial tour of one the Natural Wonders of the World, and you have the makings of an outstanding day of aviating.

When departed Scottsdale to the northwest, the sun was still relatively low in the southeast and this caused the nearby mesas to cast long, dark shadows into the adjoining valleys. The air was crystal clear with just a hint of high Cerris clouds. We continued to climb to our intermediate altitude of 8500' Since we had gotten an early start, there was not much "traffic" on our air-to-air frequency save for a couple of folks from another flying group. Just south of Cottonwood, I heard the first call from another Breakfast Club member. After I responded to their call, I began to hear other Breakfast Club participants reporting their positions. Our GPS direct course from Scottsdale to south waypoint of the Dragon Corridor, takes us just to the east of the Cottonwood Airport and our position verified that we were right on course. It was just passed Cottonwood that I began a climb to our desired cruise altitude of 10,500.

At 10,500', we crossed Interstate 40 just to the east of the city of Williams and very shortly, the Williams Airport that is north of town. One of our members had one of the new Garmin black boxes in his new airplane but had not yet mastered all of its wizardry. He did have a hand held on board that he could enter the co-ordinates of the south end of the Dragon Corridor as I read them off to him. After he got them entered, I gave him the north end coordinates. At this point, I was still in the lead but Joe Stockwell in his Cirrus SR22, was gaining ground (or airspace if you prefer), rapidly. I was the first to the Dragon One waypoint and headed out over the Grand Canyon. I was about 2/3's of the way across when Joe come whizzing by me like the Warrior was still tied-down. As I swabbed the drool from my chin, I mused that the Cirrus was a really nice airplane but was not very good as a "time builder". At this time of the morning, the Grand Canyon assumes a contrast in character. With the sun only about 30 degrees above the eastern horizon, all of the towering mesas and pinnacles to the east, appeared to be very dark anywhere below their acmes. On the other hand (or west side of the airplane if you will), all of the spectacular mesas, buttes, and pinnacles, were bathed in brilliant colors not to be duplicated anywhere else in the world. The muted tones and pastel colors were awe inspiring as we sat there in our comfortable aircraft and enjoyed the passing show. My feeble attempt to describe this truly spectacular vista is testimony to its extraordinary beauty. From this vantage point, I mused on how fortunate we are to be able to view the Grand Canyon from the air.

From the north end of the Dragon Corridor, it is about 25-30 miles to the Marble Canyon Airport. From 11,500’, it becomes a "swan dive" to get down to the pattern altitude of 4600'. About 20 miles south of L41, I tuned into the CTAF of 122.9. Joe was about 10 miles ahead of me and calling "Marble Canyon traffic" to advise of a left downwind entry for runway 3. Because the Vermillion Cliffs rise several thousand feet above the valley floor and are only about two miles west of the airport, I called a left base entry to runway 3. The runway is only 29 feet wide and about 3500' long. Right at the very end of the approach end, there was what appeared to be some "ruts" but were not really a factor due to their location. The runway has a slight uphill pitch for the first 1000' and then levels-off for the balance of its length. At the north end of runway, there is a 20 degree dogleg to the right that may not be technically part of the runway but since there are no markings of any sort, you never would know. Parking is on either side of this "ramp" and there were an ample supply of "chocks" for your wheels but no chains (actually, they were flat stones). All-in-all, there were nine aircraft that used-up all of the available parking spaces.

The Marble Canyon Trading Post is right across the highway and we all headed there in mass. When you come in the main entry, you need to take an immediate right turn to the "airport office". This office serves a duel purpose as it is also the office for the lodge part of the trading post. After registering your aircraft, you retrace your steps passed the main entry and into the dinning area. The window side of the room is lined with typical booths with the center of the room being dominated by a long table that would rival those in most any major corporation's board room. And, there is also the typical "lunch counter" and its accompanying stools. The menu is not extensive but adequate for the area. Another choice would be the buffet all-be-it limited in selection. The service was good as was the food, not exceptional, but good.

When our breakfast was finished and we had our fill of "rocket fuel", the Breakfast Club gaggle headed out the door and down the highway for the Navajo Bridge. This hike only amounted to about a 1/4 mile before we came to the visitor's center. About 4 or 5 years ago, a new, wider, and longer, Navajo Bridge was opened to vehicle traffic and the old span was dedicated as a "pedestrian walkway" over the Colorado River that flows sever hundred below. At the east end of the old bridge, there is a parking lot with dedicated spaces where the native Americans can sell their wares. Back on the west side of the old bridge, the visitor's centers also serves as the local souvenir mart but there are a number of displays that depicts the history of the area as well as the old bridge.

After our group had gotten all of the photo ops taken care of, we retraced our steps back to the Marble Canyon Airport. Our run-up was conducted on a portion of the "dog leg" that is the runway extension. I applied full power before the dog leg turned into the runway to take advantage of every available foot of the paved surface. We lifted-off shortly after entering the downhill portion of the runway and slowly climbed to a safe altitude before initiating a left turn to take us to the east side of the Colorado River gorge. I brought-up the waypoint for the north end of the Zuni Corridor that is now on the east side of the river and about 10 miles to the east of the north end of the Dragon Corridor. The two corridors do not parallel each other so you view of the Grand Canyon is slightly different. The Colorado River, more or less, runs adjacent to our north/south course and the Little Colorado empties into the main river channel just south of the north end of the Zuni Corridor. The waters in the Little Colorado are a vibrant turquoise color but they are swallowed-up by the muddy waters of its more famous name sake.

Just when you are beginning to believe that the cornucopia of colors are now behind you, you suddenly realize the there is a different array of colorful scenery before you. As we approached the wooded portion of this high plateau country, you notice splotches of yellow gold below you. These are the Aspens changing color along with many of the other varieties flora that is beginning the process of hibernation for the winter season. And so the show goes on all the way to the Verde Valley which portrays a different show of its own. A little side note to the days aviating activities is that, this is the first time that I had been able to make the round trip to L41, without having to make a fuel stop on the way back. Since we had replaced the old 150 hp mill with a new 180 hp engine in February, we have noted a 15 kt greater ground speed with only about a .8 gal per hour more fuel burn. Seems to me to have been a great day for flying all around.

The Marble Canyon Bunch

  • Warren & Jeri-Ann McIlvoy in 4544X, BC-1
  • Mike Harris & Paul Kuss in 5921Y
  • Joe & Dianne Stockwell in 843CD
  • Trent Heidtke and Tim Yoder in 4638W
  • Roger & Joanna Pries in 13806
  • Gary Senatore and Paul Fortune in 31870, BC-201
  • Gary & Judy Hedges in 1196L, BC-99
  • Richard Spiegel, Bob Spurny, John Spurny, Julie Cramer, and Dolly Petersen in 901KA, BC-3 & 3.5


What's Next?

The November Breakfast Club event is an encore visit to Kingman, Arizona and the Wickers Café. December will see us travel south to Tucson and one of the hotels in the vicinity of the Tucson Airport. At this time, we have not picked one out but we have done that by the time of the event. That's all for now but remember, fly safe.

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