Breakfast Club
An Affiliate of the Arizona Pilots Assn.


The Knife & Fork

Breakfast Club Visits Whiteriver & Whiteriver Motel

12 Aug 2006
by Warren McIlvoy & Austin Erwin

As you will quickly note, I did not attend the fly-in to Whiteriver. One of our newer members, Austin Erwin, took the task at hand and volunteered to write this month's story about the Breakfast Club fly-in. I believe that you would agree that Austin did an excellent job. I might even consider hiring him full time so that he can get the same pay that I get. Read-on and enjoy.

"Our chief waxier of poetic license at large, Warren McIlvoy, was conspicuously absent from the morning breakfasters. But nevertheless, the journal must go on, so I am writing on Warren's behalf this month".

Part I - Rain: Why Now, Why Not During the Week?

The day began like most August mornings in Phoenix, with the quiet hum of the air conditioners working with purpose in the background. Overnight lows in the 90's this time of year give little rest to my circa 1973 Goettle that is set atop my house.

The exception to this morning being like most others was that during the night, while most were sacked-out, the weather was raising havoc in town. During the week, a low pressure system had taken up residence in the western half of the state and a high pressure system to the north. Like the Hatfield's and McCoy's, eventually there was "gonna be trouble". Overnight, in some parts of the valley, mico-bursts were felling trees and disrupting its resident's conventional past-time for this hour of the night, namely sleep. Farther east towards Show Low and Whiteriver, the destination of this month's
Breakfast Club trek, those areas were hit with weather too.

As the weather played heavily into the evening and very early morning sky, by the time 0600 had arrived, most of the clouds had cleared out. However, some challenging ones lingered out east n Show Low and Whiteriver, so decisions had to be made.
Now, it wasn't the weather above that was the problem, it was the weather where we were going that had to be though about. And by the looks of it, the previous evening storms didn't receive a "last call", in Whiteriver and it appeared as though they decided to stick around into the next day. With all this being said, the number heading out for Augusts’
Breakfast Club trek to Whiteriver were fewer than usual.

Part II - The Flying Part

Looking for ways to make this expensive habit (excuse me, hobby) as economical as possible, a buddy of mine, Rob Mooers, agreed to fly one leg of the trip. This helps to preserve and not wear out the magnetic strip of our credit cards, so I rationalize. Today's outbound leg belonged to me. Based at Stellar Air Park (P19), the chosen route was to transition the Falcon Field (FFZ) airspace and then head direct to Whiteriver (E24) at 9,500' MSL. Once airborne, it was smooth as glass. If you are a skier, it was like one of those perfect early mornings to be out on the lake with no waves. Today was like that in the air, no disturbance, nice and smooth.

Over the top of Falcon Field, we overheard a conversation between ATC (air traffic control) and a CFI discussing the logistics of his exiting the aircraft so his student could make their first solo flight. That brought back memories, and they aren't all that old. ATC and the CFI worked it out and quite possibly that evening, someone's shirt tail was missing a swath of fabric.

Further along past Falcon Field, the lakes of the Salt River were just coming into sight. The Salt River Project (SRP) had its beginnings at the turn of the century and has left a legacy of an oasis in the desert. These lakes are a great place to beat the summer's heat. Of course traveling at 9,500' MSL has its advantages too. The lake closest to Phoenix is
Saguaro Lake. It was constructed between 1928-1930 and is one of four that comprise the SRP reservoir system. From west to est, the lakes are Saguaro Lake, Canyon Lake, Apache Lake, and Roosevelt Lake. Roosevelt Lake is the largest of the artificial reservoirs. The most famous landmark is the Roosevelt Dam. Completed in 1911 with the price tag of $10.3 million, it was heralded by President Roosevelt as one of the two most important accomplishments of his administration, the other was the Panama Canal. By air, you can pass over in a few minutes what took many ears to build. Most amazing, these reservoirs were constructed nearly a century ago when very few lived in the Salt River Valley.

The estimated time to Whiteriver from Stellar is about one hour. So far, we had been airborne for about 32-minutes. Passing over Grapevine, the private field on the south end of
Roosevelt Lake, we are just a little over 28-minutes from touchdown at Whiteriver.

9,500' and all is well, and we just got there! With a Cessna 172SP's 180HP in August, the vertical rate of climb leaves something to be desired. However, it is a far cry from the PA28-161 Piper Warrior I was flying around in last summer, it only had 160HP under the "hood". Density altitude and maximum take-off performance (or lack of it), and I are well acquainted.

Looking out below, were some low-lying, ground hugger type clouds hanging around maybe 1,000' AGL. They would be burning off in the morning sun fairly soon. The good news was the weather behind us was favorable (we had to go back eventually) and what was ahead looked decent as well. At about 25NM out, I brought up 123.45 to see who was out-and-about and not to my surprise, there were others in the sky. Now it might be a guy thing, but everyone was reporting their ground speed. I heard some 160's and some 150's. I kept my mic closed for obvious reasons. Did I mention that it was a 172SP between me and the surface?

There is no AWOS at Whiteriver so the next best thing was turning in Show Low to see what the conditions were up there. The
Breakfast Club had visited Show Low in July for the EAA pancake breakfast fly-in. Show Low is only about 27-miles to the north. The signal reception was garbled, but I managed to hear "160 at 7".

At 10-miles out, there were two or three of us in that zone and we kept tabs on who was where. I still hadn't spotted the field but Warren's description about it being tucked in behind a low-lying ridge was exactly right. No sooner did I crest the ridge, did the field appear. Other than noticing the field, the next thing I noticed was its width. It looked narrow. However, chedking into my AFD after the day's event, P24's runway was just as wide as Chandler and Stellar, but at the moment, it didn't seem so. The plan was to fly over the top at the TPA+500' and make either right down-wind for 1 or left down-wind for 19. As hard as I looked for a wind sock, I didn't spot one (later on the ground it was quite visible). Currently #2 and the aircraft ahead of me decided on using runway 1, I followed the band wagon. Transitioning mid-field at TPA+500' and doing an abbreviated down-wind, I found myself high turning final. Things sorted themselves out once I added the last notch of flaps and flew the right airspeed. The mains touched down a few feet further down the runway than anticipated, but there was still plenty of real estate ahead. Total time in-route was 50-minutes. We had a nice tailwind.

Part III: Welcome to Whiteriver. Hello, Where's the "Follow-Me" Truck?

Whiteriver, Arizona is located in the eastern half of the state and serves as the Apache Tribe's administrative center for this part of the state. Located on State Route 73, Whiteriver is approximately 16-miles east of Route 60 that connects northern Arizona, Show Low to Miami-Globe to the south. Route 73 leads directly to Pinetop-Lakeside, about 22-miles to the north. From our vantage point on the ground, looking west at the ridge that we passed over, it was easy to see the remnants of the Cibique fire that was in the news and on the minds of the Whiteriver residents during the summer of 2002. Cibique is roughly 40-miles west of Whiteriver, not very far at all. At least this day, the sign we passed walking to breakfast listed the fire danger as "moderate".

The gang assembled and proceeded to hoof it to the Whiteriver Motel that was up the road about a half a mile. The air was clean and fresh; a notable difference from the Phoenix air that we left roughly an hour before. The evening rains left its mark on the surroundings. The ground was wet and large puddles were scattered here and there. The cattle guard that walked across was filled to the brim and water overflowed from it.

Breakfast was accompanied by the usual conversations regarding aviation gear, politics, the latest interpretation of the TFR around the new Cardinals Stadium and techniques for various things from leaning an engine to what not to pack in your carry-on luggage if traveling commercially. And who needs a factory installed A/C unit; some of us learned of a neat gadget that works in a reto-fitted cooler and blows 65-degree air. A perfect gift if you fly during the summertime in Arizona.

1100. It was time to get back to Phoenix and bid adieu to 75-degrees. The previously absent wind upon arrival had at this point, kicked-up. The windsock registered straight down the runway from the south, making it favorable to use runway 19 for departure. This was especially convenient because our crosswind turnout would easily put us on course to the west.

Summertime in Arizona usually brings fair flying in the early morning but then as the morning wears on, thunderstorms develop in the higher elevations as soon as 1000. So clouds were forming to the north and the weather, as expected, was deteriorating into a typical summer's day. Summer weather can be more predictable and punctual then me. The rains are welcome since we needed the moisture, but it would be nice if it didn't interfere with our enjoyment of the wind blue yonder.

The return leg of this trek belonged to Rob. The altitude for our return home was 8,500' and the chosen route was to pass over San Carlos Apache and transition Williams Gateway, Chandler, and then direct to Stellar. At this point, the cloud layer was forming above us and a few were at our altitude. The object was to find some convenient holes and pass through as they presented themselves. This proved not too difficult and the navigation was easily carried out to avoid being near to any particular cloud. Having little opportunity to view clouds from this perspective, no complaint here, it was scenic and enjoyable. One cloud in particular looked like the Energizer Bunny form the battery commercial.

Roughly 25-minutes had elapsed and the towns of Miami-Globe were beneath us. Miami-Globe are copper mining towns, and from the air, the history of the area is evident. Strewn over miles are the pock marks of mining operations. Mining operations to some, conjure-up images of dark tunnels and caves. The operations here looked different than that. What was etched in the earth below, looked more like upside down pyramids than anything else. Instead of the apex reaching into the sky, these reached down into the earth. Over a century ago, copper, gold, and silver was the allure that brought many to this region. A century later, the prospects of the same fortune are uncertain.

From here, it is a straight shot to Williams Gateway. Communications with ATC granted us the permission we needed to transition their airspace. Not far east of the field, maybe less than 3-miles, is one of the many proving grounds located in the valley.

This proving ground, not long ago, was thought to be in the middle of "nowhere", but now, communities are springing up all around it. A 12-year-old on a bike could easily spot next year's new release from Detroit, so much for secrecy. From the air, one sees asphalt that has been laid to replicate the highways and byways of our transportation infrastructure, complete with on-ramps, off-ramps, and cul-de-sacs. The difference here is that no houses were on these streets but this view gave me a pause because it looked like one of the many new communities being built in the state.

Once we passed Williams Gateway, Chandler's ATC gave us clearance to pass through their airspace. The only other one sharing ATC's time was a pilot of a Mooney practicing touch-and-goes in the pattern. We passed overhead on the north side of the field and barely three minutes later, we were safely back at Stellar.

The day was a good one. The beginnings at 0400 spelled the unlikelihood of any such luck of flying. Fortunately, the heavens were kind and allowed a few of us to spend part of our day enjoying the freedom of flight.

Austin Erwin


On the SRP Project:

On Whiteriver:

On Cibique Fire:

On Miami-Globe:

The Whiteriver Gang

  • Roger Whittier in 706CD, BC-122
  • Austin Erwin and Rob Mooers in 199SP
  • Larry Jensen in 14LJ, BC-65
  • Glen & Judy Yoder and Tim, Ramona, and Ty Yoder in 31TC, Bc-007
  • Trent Heidtke in 703CD, BC-112
  • Joe & Diane Stockwell in 843CD, BC-22
  • Lance Thomas in 3180R
  • Sam Foote and Mike Darling in 15040, BC-53

What's Next?

The September
Breakfast Club event will see us traveling north towards the Grand Canyon only a bit closer that we did in July. We will be landing at the Grand Canyon Airport and hiking through the woods to the Grand Canyon Squire Inn. Our October event will be a spectacular fly-in to Benson, Arizona and a tour of Kartchner Caverns. That all for now but remember, fly safe.

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