September 8, 2022 |

This week marks the annual arrival of the Conquistadores del Cielo, or Conquerors of the Sky. Every year, titans of the aerospace industry fly into Shively Field to hunt and socialize at the A Bar A Ranch.

The Conquistadores were founded in 1937 by Jack Frye, the president of Trans World Airlines, and his vice president, Paul Richert. The original purpose of the club was for Frye’s friends and business associates to come his sprawling ranch, the A Bar A, for hunting and horseback riding.

Now an official non-profit organization, they are focused on promoting interest in aerospace by sponsoring educational and sporting events.

The group’s inner workings were shrouded in secrecy until recently. Several members have revealed what takes place during these exclusive gatherings. Descriptions of their initiation ceremony involve members carrying torches while riding horses down from the mountains. Everyone is dressed in traditional Spanish costumes. The initiate is read the history of the Conquerors of the Sky and dubbed “Conquistador.”

While it seems that most of the event is taken up by enthusiastic partying and sport, there have been accusations of underhanded dealings. Reports of insider trading have resulted in the prosecution of several members by the federal government. The government says that these events provide an opportunity for airline executives to conspire, although the Conquistadores del Cielo gathering is far from the only time these people get together.

Having such a large influx of aircraft coming into our small town is a task that Bob Maddox is ready for. He is the airport manager and owner of the Fixed Base Operator, or FBO, for Shively Field. Maddox explains that an FBO is responsible for the day-to-day running of the airport.

Pictured above: Jets parked at Shively Field on Thursday. Photo courtesy Saratoga Jet Center webcam.

Maddox said that most of the Conquistadores arrive on a single day. He expects about 24 jets to have arrived within a six-hour window on Wednesday. Most of the planes stay at the airport during the event so finding a place to put so many aircraft can be a challenge.

Maddox is also the owner of the Snowy Range Ski Area. He is able to have people from the ski area work at the airport for this event.

The Conquistadores don’t stay long. Once the weekend’s activities are done, they soar off into the wild blue yonder. Things at the airport can return to normal until next year.

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