Arizona Airport Focus: Bagdad (E51) 

By Brian Schober 

 

Copper is one of the staple industries in Arizona. It has played, and still plays, an important role in our state, as more than 68% of the copper used in the United States in 2017 came from Arizona. Ask any state legislator what the 3 C’s of Arizona are and they’ll tell you “Coper, Cotton and Cattle!” Copper was first mined in Bagdad back in 1882 and is still being mined today. More than 173 million pounds of copper were pulled from the ground. Bagdad is one of only two company towns left in Arizona. The Freeport-McMoRan company currently operates the copper and molybdenum mine, as well as many of the local businesses and owns much of the town’s housing.

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Though Bagdad is off the beaten path, the town has an airport – E51. The town is centrally located in Arizona and sits about 100 miles northwest of Phoenix in Yavapai County. The single asphalt runway 5/23 is 4552’ x 60’ and sits atop an elevated hilltop slightly north of the town. There are a handful of aircraft based at the airport and AirNav reports less than 100 operations per month at Bagdad. This is a VFR-only airport, as there are no published approaches. There are also no services, FBO, or terminal building at E51, so plan ahead for fuel. On the bright side, there are no landing or handling fees, either. The approach into and departure from the field is relatively easy with no major obstructions at either end. With an elevation of 4200 feet, density altitude becomes a concern in the warmer seasons. Also, E51 is within the Bagdad 1 MOA, so be vigilant in see-and-avoid practices.

Once on the ground, there is a large parking area near the midpoint of the runway on the North side. The airport is about 2 ½ miles from town, so it’s a healthy walk or an Uber/Lyft ride to get there. Alternatively, the mining roads that pass by the airport offer a moderate hiking experience with some incredible views of craggy cliffs and canyons. The author and a fellow APA member logged a bit over 9 miles on a circuit back to the airport. Bring water!

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The town is home to approximately 2500 people. The mine employs nearly 900, so much of the town supports these workers. There are a couple of diners and shops, and the close-knit community feel is apparent.

Besides the scenery and the quaint town, the highlight of the area is the mine. A spectacular overlook is available to visitors, though you’ll need to have your Uber/Lyft driver agree to take you to the mine. This tour is organized in advance, so call ahead to determine the date. Call (928) 633-6001 to arrange the tour. Of course, the aerial view is pretty spectacular, as well.

The Bridle Creek Riparian Habitat is open during the week. To offset some of the environmental impact of the mine, several owls and other birds have been relocated to a rehabilitation center located in Bagdad. A peaceful walk among the trails can be relaxing and the chance to see the wildlife.

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While there is a museum that chronicles the history of the mining industry in the area, it is currently closed. If it opens in the future, it would be worth a trip to Bagdad just to walk through it.

While Bagdad may not have much in the way of activities, it’s a great place to put on your bucket list simply for the uniqueness of it. There is some spectacular scenery on the way there and while you’re on the ground. And besides, you can say you’ve been to Bagdad, Arizona that is.