By Mark Spencer


Who would believe it’s been nearly 6 years since we embarked on the original GAPP to save the incredible Grapevine Airstrip? It’s true though, and what a great 6 years it’s been, but it’s time to put our shoulders to the wheel again, only this time you won’t have to pick up a shovel or wipe the sweat off your brow; what is needed is your tax deductible backcountry donation. Grapevine has become the most popular backcountry airstrip in the Arizona inventory. Aviators from all over the country have come to enjoy our little slice of heaven in the Tonto National Forest. Even with its location next to the largest body of water in central Arizona, and within some of the most quintessential Sonoran Desert terrain to be found, perhaps its most unique attribute is that Grapevine (88AZ) is an asphalt airstrip. This singe attribute means that is perhaps the most accessible backcountry airstrip in this great country. Sadly, this incredible airstrip was left in ruins after 26 years of closure and abandonment, but thanks to the willing hands and open wallets of members of the Arizona Pilots Association, Recreational Aviation Foundation, and the 99’s, as well as a very willing Tonto National Forest, Grapevine has been open the last 6 years!

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Our original GAPP took place over two years, first with an all hands on deck volunteer crack sealing that really showed us all what we could accomplish. Three grueling days of picking out cracks and learning how to run equipment with scalding hot oozing tar made for a real challenge!  The following year we hired a seal coating company to apply a very heavy top coat to its entire length, and with the runway markings applied by the 99’s, the Grapevine airstrip entered prime time.

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To say that this was worth it is an understatement. The benefits of this airstrip reach beyond its simple use and enjoyment to the encouragement of young folks into aviation. Many a dreamer have had their first flight out of this airstrip, and the three young ones helping us crack seal have all now made their careers in aviation! 

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It's time again to join together in continued maintenance of the Grapevine airstrip. The APA and RAF will embark, in partnership with the USFS, to crack seal the airstrip once again. This is following the hundreds of yards of materials that were brought in and spread along the runway edges by volunteers this spring. Please join us this work through your generous tax deductible donation in the Backcountry Donation box on our website!

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This young fellow is now a cadet in the USAF ROTC at NAU! And the next time you visit the Grapevine, take a moment to remember this fellow, Tom Kvanvig. Tom and his daughter Mason, photographed here, were at many of our backcountry events, Pleasant Valley, Double circle, and of course here at Grapevine. We lost Tom, his wife, and young son to an aircraft accident on a family trip to Idaho last year. Mason is now studying at ASU, while helping to take care of her younger sister. I’ll personally never forget this family, and the time I spent on these projects was worth it!

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It takes all kinds of people and sacrifice to make something great like Grapevine a reality, and while we won’t need any heavy lifting this summer, your tax deductible donation to the Arizona Pilot’s Association, earmarked for backcountry, will go a long way towards helping us crack seal this summer, and provide other needed backcountry airstrip maintenance.

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My high school friend Tom Stetcher and his family experiencing their first seaplane ride at Grapevine, thanks to member, Tod Dickey. The little guy in this photo, Thomas, even after getting airsick, proclaimed, “This is the best day of my life!!!”

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