Low and Slow Leads to Tragedy at STOL Drag Event

The STOL community turns introspective following an accident at the MayDay STOL Drag event on Friday.

Under grumbling skies and buffeted by brisk winds, MayDay STOL Drag had promised to be a great spring-into-summer gathering for the short-takeoff-and-landing community with a running of a STOL Drag matchup. Those winds precluded the official STOL Drag contest from taking place on Friday, but a handful of competitors took advantage of the opportunity to demonstrate short takeoffs and landings that quivered to a stop, often tails up taking advantage of the headwind, in an unsanctioned practice event.

The afternoon daisy chain around the pattern at Wayne, Nebraska (KLCG) included Steve Henry’s Number 44, Yee Haw, Hal Stockman in Lawnmower 3, and Tom Dafoe flying his vintage Cessna 140, among others. The event came to a halt when Dafoe apparently got slow on final behind another competitor and entered a stall-spin state from wings level on approach at about 300 feet agl.

Tragically, Dafoe died in the accident, with the 140 a total loss. With immediate emergency response and a collective support network engaged to care for his family on the scene, the STOL community turned introspective and stood down the MayDay competition. 

A safety standdown of sorts is in progress to examine the cause of the accident and ways to move forward in a conservative manner with the events on the calendar for this summer and fall.

Tom Dafoe cutting his son Will’s shirt after Will’s first solo in the family’s 140. [Facebook]

A Passion for Aviation

Dafoe was a longtime pilot and joyful about aviation. An aircraft broker by profession, he had recently moved from California to Holly Lake Airpark in Tyler, Texas. He had also recently joined the team at jetAVIVA in 2021, after spending 20 years with the Cessna Aircraft Company and Textron Aviation. His colleagues—both current and former—demonstrated an outpouring of support following the accident for Dafoe’s family.

“Tom was truly one-of-a-kind; an incredible family man and friend, and a passionate aviator,” said Emily Deaton, CEO of jetAVIVA. “He was a beloved member of the jetAVIVA team, and we are feeling his loss keenly.

“Our focus is on supporting Tom’s family during this time, and we are encouraging the aviation community to give to the Memorial Fund created in Tom’s honor. jetAVIVA will be matching all donations dollar-for-dollar.”

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