|By Curt Thomas
very beginnings of the club started on September 11, 1980.
Ten men, of the twenty-two whom had expressed an interest,
got together for an organization meeting at the Transformer
Shop Crew Room at the Arizona Public Service Deer Valley Facility.
These people had two things in common, they were all employees
of the APS, and they were all interested in building and flying
radio-controlled airplanes. We organized as an employee club,
sponsored by APS.
We needed three things to get started, a name, by-laws, and
a place to fly. A by-laws committee was setup and Bill Goren,
the clubs first secretary, came up with the name Arizona Model
Pilots Society, which tied directly with our company’s
business. I worked in engineering and had direct access to
maps of all lands held by different government agencies. I
became Vice-President and took on the responsibility for finding
a flying site.
We contacted the City, County, State and Federal Governments.
The City of Phoenix quickly gave us, “No model airplane
flying is allowed inside the city limits. “Developers
like John F Long, Dell Webb, and Margaret Hance (then Mayor
of the City of Phoenix) tied up all useable, accessible Federal
lands. Finally, we found useable state land out by Lake Pleasant.
We cleared, graded, covered with decomposed granite, watered
and rolled the site. We began to fly there and invited guests
to fly with us. We soon learned that our field had some major
drawbacks. It was a long way out, it was situated north and
south, it had a power line to the east, and the south turnaround
was over the intersection of Lake Pleasant Road and 99th Avenue.
This was not an ideal situation, so we continued to look for
a better site. This is when Adobe Dam Recreation Area came
to our attention. We contacted the Maricopa County Parks and
Recreation Department’s Superintendent of Recreation,
Mr. Howard Gilmore. He pointed out some problems to us; 1)
the park was still under the control of the Army Corps of
Engineers, 2) the park was supposed to be for picnics, hiking,
and horseback riding, and 3) most of the park, over 2400 acres,
had been given in a use permit to the Arizona Livestock Exhibition
Association. I obtained a map of the proposed park with its
users. I had to see if I could find any unclaimed useable
space. I thought that a little strip between the south boundary
of the Arizona Livestock Exhibition Association and Skunk
Creek Wash might be useable.
the real fight started. Mr. Gilmore suggested that we might
want to contact the Central Arizona Model Advisory Council.
The objective of the CAMAC was to give central Arizona modelers
a single voice to deal with different government agencies
in acquiring and keeping flying sites. The first real use
of CAMAC was to deal with Ruth Chase, head of the Western
Division of the Army Corps of Engineers. Ruth Chase did
not feel that a model airport fit their concept for the
park. So, CAMAC requested that Senator Barry Goldwater write
a letter to Ruth Chase on our behalf. He did so, and that
particular obstacle disappeared (I think a copy of this
letter is in the club files).
About this time, I began to doubt that
a small 15 to 20 member employees club would have the resources
to acquire and develop a first class flying site. In a meeting,
we decided to invite non-employees with us in our quest
for a flying site. So I contacted George Sing and Clair
Sieverling and asked these two long time modelers to assist
A question came up as to whether saddle
horses and noisy model airplanes could coexist. The wife
of Bill Goren had a show horse and they belonged to the
show horse association. He prevailed on the Secretary of
that organization to a write a letter for us to the County.
The letter stated that any good saddle horse would ignore
non-threatening noises, even model airplane engines.
Next, we had a meeting at Deer Valley
Airport with Ed Gilliam, Airport Manager, Stann Watt, FAA
Tower Manager, CAMAC, and Maricopa County Parks. We discussed
our needs, our request, the concerns of the airport and
the Private Pilots Association. We reached no conclusions,
but arranged a flight demonstration. The following week,
Clair and George flew from a level site just northwest of
our current site. Both Ed Gilliam and Stan Watt were allowed
stick time and Stan really enjoyed it. At the end of the
demonstration, Stan Watt indicated that he and the FAA had
no problem with our proposal, but Ed Gilliam was still against
We persevered, Clair, George, or I or
all three of us were at every meeting of the Maricopa County
Parks Board. Finally, they gave in. In June of 1983, we
received a temporary special use permit. A short time later
the word went out and we held a meeting at the site. Forty-three
people signed up and paid $25.00 dues. We had a start.
I had once worked within the APS Survey
Department, so I was able to coerce the supervisor into
sending a crew out to our site. They surveyed our site and
grade staked it. Next came the grading and the leveling.
Ken Shaver, one of our members, was Foreman of the Tool
Shop and all of the Heavy Equipment Operators worked for
him. Since the company only paid the operators truck drivers
wages, he was constantly having to train new operators.
As soon as the operators became proficient they would leave
and go into construction to receive operators pay. Therefore,
our field was an ideal place to train new operators. A place
where they were not likely to hurt themselves or destroy
anyone’s property. The day they started, I got a frantic
call from Ken. It seems that nobody bothered to inform the
Park Ranger that we had a permit and were going to start
work. The Park Ranger shut them down. After a few hectic
calls, everything was running smoothly. However, just to
be safe, either George or Clair was on site all day and
every day until grading completion. Next, we spread, watered
and rolled many truckloads of decomposed granite for the
In August of 1983, APS donated eighteen
thirty five-foot poles. Guy Laine, one of the early club
officers and founding fathers, got one of his buddies on
a line crew to bring their line truck with an auger on it
and process holes for the ramada support poles. That weekend
every member showed up and in one weekend, the ramada was
almost completed. The original snack bar was made of wood,
but vandals burned it up along with the west-end of the
ramada. We extended the ramada and rebuilt to its present
We now had a flying field, but the pit
area was somewhat dusty. George Sing took up a collection
and had the concrete pit pads poured. Later, we extended
these pads on each end and flew from the field at this stage
until spring of 1985.At this time; the club began contemplating
a hard surface runway.
At this time, it became unwieldy to
have part of our membership sponsored by the company while
the vast majority was not. We had grown to 160 to 170 members
of which only 15 to 16 were APS employees. Therefore, we
voted to withdraw from APS sponsorship. This made the company
none too happy; after all, they had donated many resources
to the field. I appealed to them by pointing out that the
same employees were still benefiting from their donations.
Once more, I approached the County Parks
Department. I informed them that we planned to hard surface
the runway but could not undertake such a large financial
burden with only a temporary use permit. So on April 15,
1985, I signed a ten year special use permit with a promise
of at least another ten year extension on the end of that.
With a long term use permit in hand,
Clair Sieverling, the financial wizard that he is, came
up with a plan to pay for a 600’ X 75’ paved
runway. I should also note that Clair was also responsible
for writing the clubs by-laws, getting the club incorporated,
getting the club's IRS tax free status, and protecting the
officers. According to Clair’s plan, each member was
to be assessed $50.00, and limited lifetime memberships
would be available for $250.00, with special exemptions
made in hardship cases. We lost fewer members due to the
assessment than we figured, and more people took the lifetime
membership than we thought. We sent out bidding invitations,
selected a contractor, and signed a contract. You can see
the results for yourself.
When the County Parks Department gives
you a special use permit, you have a specified length of
time to start improving your property or you loose the permit.
The north edge of our runway was only 25 feet from the south
property line of the Arizona Livestock Exhibition Association.
Despite numerous prodding’s, ALEA failed to meet their
time limit and thereby lost their permit. As soon as I learned
of this, I petitioned for additional area for over-fly.
The County Parks Department granted us a quarter of a mile
in each direction from the center of the runway and 500
feet in front.
We added safety barriers, spectator
fencing, water, electricity, and grass. Thanks mostly to
Jim Trainor, Jake Frizzel, and Howard McClanahan. Another
work party installed the tables and benches. Members of
AMPS acquired, bought, paid for and/or built every addition
to the field.
We do owe a big vote of thanks to Mr.
Bill Ritchwine and Mr. Howard Gilmore; both have since retired
from the Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department.
Everything else we owe primarily to the first forty-three
members, of which there are still about fourteen or fifteen
still alive and active.
I will not tell you that it has
always been smooth sailing. There were a lot of bumps, potholes,
and disagreements along the way. Mostly, I think it was