Breakfast Club

The Knife & Fork

Breakfast Club Visits Farmington, Senor Peppers

By Warren McIlvoy
10 Nov 2001

It took three months, but the Breakfast Club was eventually able to make it's last long distance event of the year.  Our scheduled events to Window Rock and Echo Bay were canceled by the grounding of all VFR flights by the NSC and the FAA.  The only thing that would scuttle our scheduled event to Farmington, would be inclement weather.  But that was not the case for this event as it was clear sailing all the way to FMN. 

Inasmuch as Farmington is a 260 mile jaunt, it required that we get an early launch in order to arrive at our destination by 0900.  It did mean getting out of bed at "o dark thirty" and performing the pre-flight in the dark with the aid of a flashlight.  And to add just a little bit of excitement to the morning's journey, I still needed a half hours duel instruction in order to complete the three hours of instruction for phase six of the FAA's "Wings Program".  So today, we would be accompanied by Aaron Kern, my flight instructor for this program.  We departed on runway three to the northeast and, once out of the Class D airspace, I donned my hood for a half an hour of simulated instrument flying.  I selected 9500' as our altitude of choice since the Chuska Mountains, in the extreme northeast part of Arizona, rose to 9500' at their highest point and this would still leave us some leeway for traversing that mountain range.  By the time that we crossed into the Tonto Basin, we began to hear of other Breakfast Club aircraft that were on their way to Farmington .  It was sure delightful to hear other BC call-signs once again as were trundled onward.  It was not until we passed over Payson that we heard from some of the speedier BC aircraft as they ascended from the "Valley of the Sun".

When I was finally able to remove my hood, I was aware that we were north of the Mogollon Rim area, somewhere south of Winslow.  We also had about a 12 kt tailwind that would help us make up the 15 minutes that we were late getting off at Scottsdale.  I could easily make out the twin smoke stacks of the power plant that is just west of Holbrook as we crossed Interstate 40 between Holbrook and Winslow. Just northeast of Holbrook, the Paint Desert National
, monopolizes most of the real-estate.  We did not cross over it directly but the desert geography below us assumed many of the muted pastel hues and colors of that well known landmark.  With the sun still in a relatively low attitude, it enhanced the shadow effect of the multitude of small ridges that dotted the landscape.  Our direct course to Farmington, would take us about 10 miles south of Canyon de Chelly and we figured that we would make a slight deviation on our return flight to get an aerial overview of this scenic wonder.

The Chuska Mountains were now at our 12 O clock and from our position, they looked a bit higher than the 9500' shown on the chart.  I took advantage of some slight updrafts and climbed to about 10,200' to cross over that part of the mountain range that was in our path.  Once on the east side of the mountains, we began a long, slow descent to the pattern altitude at Farmington of 6500'.  The ATIS at Farmington said that the winds were light out of the southeast and favored runway 5.  We entered a right base entry to runway 5 and completed the landing that was one of my best greasers.  We did not even hear the wheels touch-down.  I'll bet that was impressive to my two passengers.  I taxied over to the transient parking area near the FBO, Seven Bar FourCorners where several other of the Breakfast Club group had already gathered.  Upon exiting the aircraft, I suddenly realized that I was not properly dressed for the occasion.  With the temperatures in the low 50's and the light breeze out of the southeast, it was definitely not the sort of weather that would allow for the wearing of shorts and a polo shirt.  Asa Dean had brought along some pull-over shirts that he had gotten us from our event down to Sierra Vista and I quickly donned this extra apparel.  It genuinely helped to quell the upper body chill but it did nothing to alleviate the quaking of my cold, bare legs.  It certainly seemed like an opportune time to go over to the FBO and make a fuel order for our return trip.  As a mater of fact, this seemed like a very good (read, warm) place to await the rest of the Breakfast Club gaggle.  As the last of the Breakfast Club aircraft was secured and the folks entered the FBO, we exited the north doors for the 70 yard hike to the restaurant.

Senor Peppers was our meal target for the morning and, though they did not benefit from any advance notice of our arrival, they were able to arrange to have us all sit together in a private area.  I am not sure if that was for our benefit or theirs.  You know how unruly a bunch of hungry aviators can get!  I had no clue as to how many folks would choose to join us for this event both because of distance and some of the restrictions that are still in place for GA.  But, we still had 19 people opt to make the trek to Farmington and the good food and service at Senor Peppers , made the long journey, worth while.  As many of us sat around the long table, one of the house people, pulled back the folding wall that made-up one side of our dinning area.  This wall separated our area form a much larger room that contained a bar/lounge and dance floor.  Though none of our group was interested in using the room at this time, it did, however, look like an inviting location for an evening meal and entertainment.

This is usually the time that we would all head out to our respective aircraft, request the last of the fuel orders, and then mount up and head-m-out.  But this was not entirely the case.  I was unable to get my aircraft started.  Thinking that it may be a "flooding" condition, I proceeded to go through the routine of a "flooded" engine start procedure.  By this time, most of the other participants had started-up and was taxing out.  Asa Dean was parked next to me and noticed that I was having a bit of a problem getting started.  Asa came over and attempted to remedy the problem with some of his home grown starting techniques.  Still no cigar.  One of the line folks from Seven Bar noticed that I was having a problem and offered to get their booster cart so that I would not completely run down my battery.  That would give the starter a chance to cool a bit by the time that the cart had arrived.  With the cart hooked-up, we went through the various start procedures again.  Still no cigar.  It would appear that I was not getting any "fire".  The line person suggested that he could summon a mechanic to help solve the problem.  At this point, it seemed like a very good idea. 

While we were waiting for the mechanic to show-up, Asa offered to give Aaron a ride in his "Texas Taildragger ".  I wonder how long it took for Aaron to make-up his mind on that one.  While Asa and Aaron were terrorizing the other planes in the pattern, the mechanic arrived on the scene and I explained what we had done up to this point.  He removed the top cowling, tweaked a bit here and there and then we attempted to get the engine started-nothing.  By this time, Asa and Aaron came taxing in and shut-down.  I explained to Asa that we were going to relocate the plane to the maintenance hangar for a more in depth examination.  I informed Asa that it was not necessary for them to hang around as I believed that we were in good hands. 

Once the aircraft was moved into the hangar, the mechanic proceeded to check-out the fuel system.  I had explained that the primer button was extremely difficult to push all the way in.  This was truly unusual as the primer button on the PA28's was much easier to use that those on the Cessnas.  The mechanic removed one of the primer nozzles and found it completely clogged.  He cleaned that one and then remove the other, same condition.  After the newly cleaned nozzles were re-installed, we tried starting again, still no cigar.  By this time, we had attracted another local who apparently work out of this airport.  After having checked the fuel system, they proceeded onto the mags.  While I cranked over the starter, they made a determination that the left mag was "DOA ".  Great!  But all was not lost.  It just so happened that they had an overhauled unit in stock, actually, it was the only mag that they had.  With due diligence, the mechanic replaced the mag, and checked for "spare parts".  We hauled the aircraft outside the hangar and fired her up.  Run like a fine Swiss watch.  So, $568.00 later, we were off and running.  It kinda give a whole new meaning to the "$100 $600.00 ham and eggs.  All-in-all not really to bad considering that they had one in stock-what were the odds?  The folks at Seven Bar Four Corners did a fine job and they gave us the red carpet treatment.  I would recommend them if you are in the neighborhood.

We loaded up the aircraft and taxied out to and departed runway 23 straight out.  With the Chuska Mountains playing a role in our choice of cruise altitudes, we choose 10,500.  The down side to that altitude, was a 15 kt headwind.  As we neared the Winslow area, we descended to 8500' to see if the headwinds would be less of a burden and, as luck would have it, they were.  Since we did not depart Farmington till just before 1500, our planned side trip to Canyon deChelly was a wash-out.  We arrived at Scottsdale at about 1715, just in time to consider what we would have for dinner.

The Farmington Group

What's Next?

God willing and the creek don't rise, the Breakfast Club will be staying close to home for our December event to Payson, Arizona.  We will be having breakfast at the Crosswinds Restaurant.  The restaurant with the "Million Dollar View" , at least that's what the sign said.  In January of 2002, we will be making an encore visit to Sedona, Arizona with a special view all it's own.  I  would like to extend the best of holiday wishes to all of the Breakfast Club participants for the Christmas and New Year's holidays.  That's all for now but remember, fly safe.