“The Recreational Aviation Foundation preserves, maintains, and creates airstrips for recreational access.”
Each month we will be highlighting an airstrip that the RAF has had an impact on. We hope that you will get out and enjoy these airstrips. This month's Featured Airstrip is The Double Circle Ranch (Z66).
The Double Circle Ranch (Z66) is located on the Clifton District of the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest roughly 29 miles northeast of Safford Arizona. The Double Circle Ranch, homesteaded in 1878, was one of the largest ranches of the southwest. In the 1950’s the then ranch owners built a log cabin lodge, bunk house and airstrip in an attempt to convert the working ranch into a Dude ranch. The last of the private holdings were ultimately traded in a land swap with the USFS in 1989. In response to a request for help in preserving the old site, from the grazing permitees Doug Dressler and Wilma Jenkins, negotiations between the RAF, APA and the USFS District Ranger Carol Telles and her recreation team began. Roughly one year later, the airstrip was cleaned up and pilots arrived for the first time in roughly 20 years in an effort to help preserve the site, its structures and history. We now have permission to place this airstrip on the sectional and have the initial approval of airspace from the FAA completed at this time. The lodge building and bunk house are open to all, but you’ll be roughing it here with no other facilities or communication. The area is bounded to the west, on the San Carlos Apache Reservation and perennial Willow Creek, and to the east by Eagle Creek. Traversing onto the reservation without a daily permit is considered trespassing. There is simply not enough space here to tell the incredible stories of this ranch, including attacks by Apache warriors under Geronimo’s command, outlaw shootouts and more, but you can check these out at AZ Pilots.org
The Double Circle airstrip is compact gravel covered and relatively narrow at around 20 feet. Grassy areas on either side are relatively clear, but a culvert roughly 600 feet south of the north end must be avoided. The airstrip is roughly 2,400’ in length. The calm wind approach is from the north, even though the airstrip slopes slightly downhill to the south. A wind sock is located along the southeastern end of the strip with parking along the airstrip to the west. While all sorts of aircraft can and do land here, including Dakotas, Bonanzas and Cardinals. Obstacles in your southern approach include the lodge, bunk house and water tower, and rising terrain to the north make density altitude particularly important at this site and a southerly departure preferred. The ancient cottonwood trees to the south can even be an issue on a hot afternoon. Volunteer weekends occur several times each year, including each National Public Lands Day, usually the last weekend of September. Follow the calendar at AZPilots.org and download the safety briefing.