The Breakfast Club

An Affiliate of the Arizona Pilots Assn

                   The Knife & Fork

Breakfast Club Crosses Grand Canyon, Visits Marble Canyon


15 Oct 05
by Warren McIlvoy

The October Breakfast Club event was to one of the most scenic locations in the entire state of Arizona, Marble Canyon. Add to the mixture some great flying weather and cool fall temperatures, and you have the all the makings for a memorable aviation adventure. I departed northbound out of Phoenix, Deer Valley Airport on a course that would take us over Mingus Mountain and just east of Williams, direct to the south end of the Dragoon Corridor.

Ordinarily, the route taken on any given Breakfast Club event, is a blend of some common desert scenery dotted with countless small to medium sized mountains and high country forests that blanket the mountainous terrain. This route had all of that and then some. Mingus Mountain is a fair sized piece of real-estate that dominates the southwestern rim of the Verde Valley. Continuing to the north, you overfly the brightly colored Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Area. Depending on the angle of the sun, this land area can take on the appearance of almost being on fire. Further to the north you come upon the mountain town of Williams and I-40 with its namesake mountain just to the south of town. Beyond Williams the view from 11,500' is of wide expanses of broad plain mottled with large stands of trees.

Our target waypoint is the south end of the Dragoon Corridor that is located to the northwest of the Grand Canyon Airport. Once established northeast bound in the corridor, it was picture taking time. There is usually little radio chatter as we traverse the Grand Canyon since the beauty and grandeur is so captivating that no one bothers to talk and that is certainly understandable. The trip across the Canyon is not long but this extravagance of God's handiwork is difficult to describe in words and pictures are better at describing the panorama that is unfolding beneath us. This is probably the one time that a faster aircraft is not an asset as we all to soon come upon the Kaibab Plateau. The north side of the plateau marks the north end of the Dragoon Corridor. But once there, you can discern the outline of the
Vermillion Cliffs to the left and the Echo Cliffs to the right. Between these two geological formations, is a broad valley that is split down the middle by the deep chasm created by the Colorado River.

At this point, the ceiling of the SFAR drops down to 8,000' and since we are at 11,500' with only about 35 miles to the Marble Canyon Airport, it is power back for the long descent to the 4600' PAT at L-41. We will remain just to the west of the river gorge to respect the experience of the river rafters for the "natural quiet" of the canyon. I follow the highway as it heads north along the east slope of the
Vermillion Cliffs and the Cliff Dwellers Lodge that is still south of L-41. Marble Canyon Airport (it is probably more appropriate to call this an airstrip rather than an airport) has a slight uphill gradient on runway 3 so I will make a left base entry to this runway about a mile out. This runway is only about 30' wide and 3700' long and it does not have any runway marking of any sort. The first 500' is a little rough that masks the "arrival" that I used for a landing and then it starts its uphill movement to the dogleg at the end that marks the "official" end of the runway and the designated ramp parking area.

After securing the aircraft with a "rock chock" (there are many available around the perimeter of the ramp area), I got some group photos of the
Breakfast Club gang before we headed-out the restaurant. I had Richard Azimov (BC-2) and my Grand-daughter Nicole Dreos (BC-1.5) with me as we crossed the highway to the Marble Canyon Lodge and Trading Post. Once inside the Lodge, the pilots are requested to register their aircraft at the "airport office" that occupies a small office space in a corner of the gift shop. The restaurant is to your left and the first dinning area has a small row of tables down the middle with some small booths lining the window wall and a dinning counter replete with stools ala the 1950's. There is another room a little further in that is all tables. The menu entrees are not overly abundant but sufficient for the clientele that would visit this remote location. You also had a choice of a buffet but it is also somewhat limited. We all received our orders in a reasonable amount of time and the portions were ample and the most important issue was that the food was reasonable good.

After breakfast, the entire group decided to take the short hike to the Navajo Bridge that is about a 1/4 mile north of the Lodge. About 10-years ago a new, wider, and longer span was opened to vehicle traffic for highway 89 to cross the river gorge. The old bridge was much narrower and now serves as a pedestrian walkway to the Indian vendors that line the east side of the bridge. Even though Page is only 20 miles by air to the northeast, the towering canyon walls gave this place a feeling of severe remoteness. We were informed that the bridge is 467' above the river but I am sure that this number has a "plus/minus" factor depending the river flow. The west side of the old bridge has a visitors center as well a the mandatory gift shop. When our visit and picture taking missions were complete, we headed back to the airstrip for our return flight.

There is no real identifiable run-up area so the practice is to taxi just past the end of the ramp area and aim the back of the aircraft away from any parked or trailing aircraft, do the run-up, and than slowly power-up for take-off as the dogleg straightens out to become the real runway. We decided to take the Zuni Corridor for our southbound leg over the Grand Canyon thus necessitating a left turn to cross over the river gorge and head south along the east side of the river and along the Echo Cliffs. The southbound crossing altitude is 10,500' and the Zuni Corridor affords a bit more of the spectacular Canyon views. The
Colorado River is visible through most of this corridor along with the junction of the Little Colorado with its larger namesake. This junction is markedly visible due to the drastic color change from the brilliant turquoise blue of the Little Colorado being swallowed-up by the muddy Colorado.

After reaching the south end of the Zuni Corridor, we headed directly towards Williams for a fuel stop. Ordinarily I would not need to refuel but fuel at Williams was considerably cheaper than at Deer Valley. Paul Fortune had already arrived but had not yet started to refuel. After refueling the aircraft, it was back into the air for our return trip to the Valley.

The Breakfast Club Gang

  • Warren McIlvoy, Richard Azimov, and Nicole Dreos in 93MB, BC-1, 1.5, and 2
  • Paul Fortune in 31870, BC-201
  • Joe & Diane Stockwell in 843CD, BC-22
  • Larry Jensen in 14LJ, BC-65
  • Glen Yoder in 31TC, BC-007


What's Next?

The November Breakfast Club event will see us traveling southeast to Tombstone and the Longhorn Restaurant. This will give a chance to try-out their new runway. In December, we will be traveling west to Chiriaco Summit and its truck stop café. The Breakfast Club event committee will be meeting on 18 Nov to put together events for the 2006 calendar. I will let every one know when it is on line. That's all for now but remember, fly safe.

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