How fast can you go slow? It’s a question that was answered during the third annual ArkanSTOL (Arkansas Short Takeoff and Landing) competition held in September in the Ozarks before the largest turnout to date.
ArkanSTOL—Arkansas’ only backcountry flying competition held in the Ozark mountains at Byrd’s Adventure Center (51AR)—began as an idea started around a campfire by co-founders Joe Edwards, John Young, and Rusty Coonfield.
Often described as STOLcross when compared to the National STOL Series and STOL Drag, competitors fly a course of short takeoffs and landings on three separate grass strips of varying length. In the past, scoring was measured by time alone. In its third year, however, the organizers added new elements to the competition.
Competitors had to first fly a qualifying course in order to compete. This course was a more traditional STOL format, similar to what’s seen in the National STOL Series. Requirements included the use of helmets, takeoff and landing within the designated 500-foot area, and clearing the 25-foot-tall inflatable pylons on both ends of the competition field500-foot area.
The event’s 35 competitors were broken into three classes: Touring (2,301 pounds and above or 4 place), Bush (1,321 pounds to 2,300 pounds), and Light Sport (up to 1,320 pounds).
There are three grass strip runways: River, Traveler, and Driftwood. This year’s course started at River where competitors took off and headed east to Traveler. After landing at Traveler, they turned around, took off heading west, over flew River, and immediately set up for landing on Driftwood while taking into account a set of 25-foot inflatable pylons they had to clear before landing.
Upon landing, they turned around and took off, clearing Driftwood’s pylons and headed back to River, where another set of 25-foot inflatable pylons awaited them prior to their touchdown in a 500-foot landing box—where their landing distance was measured by laser.
Competitors flew the course twice and the final score was calculated using this formula: (Time divided by 2) plus (Actual Landing Distance divided by Manufacturer’s Published Landing Distance from its website), multiplied by (75), plus penalties, equals final score.
Each class competed for first- through third-place medals, and first place also received a beautiful handmade Damascus steel knife.
Presentations, Friends, and Bluegrass
New for ArkanSTOL this year was the AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association)-sponsored presentation tent that included many great speakers, such as Bryan Walstrom from the Experimental Aircraft Channel and special guest Jeffery Bertsch, NASA chief, Flight Dynamics Division, speaking about the Artemis space program’s moon and mars missions.
There was a plethora of great information given during all presentations, giving a true sense of how important aviation safety, education, and the joy of general aviation is to the founders of ArkanSTOL.
Surprises included the ScaleWings serial SW-51 Mustang flown in by demo pilot, US distributor, and former Thunderbird, Trevor “Dozen” Aldridge. On competition day, the U.S. Air Force’s own STOL aircraft, a couple of Lockheed C-130J Super Hercules from Little Rock Air Force Base, made simulated landing approaches into Byrd’s.
After the flying and presentations were done each day, the stage area was set for dinner, music by One More Dollar, and camaraderie. ArkanSTOL volunteers and staff from Byrd’s Adventure Center served dinner where the line was long, but time flew by while making new friends.
When the food is gone and the band is done, the ArkanSTOL afterdark life consists of competitors, including the Jestice family, Levi Noguess, and Robbie Staton hanging out under a pavilion for nightly “pickin and a grinnin” bluegrass sessions.
- First Place: Robbie Staton – Javron Cub
- Second Place: Kevin Johnson – Piper PA18
- Third Place: Brian Steck – Legend MOAC
- First Place: Greg Jacobi – Piper Pacer
- Second Place: Kenny Monger – Cessna 172
- Third Place: Bill Gastrop – Cessna 172
LIGHT SPORT CLASS
- First Place: Brent Womack – Ran’s S-20
- Second Place: Eddie Sanchez – Just Highlander
- Third Place: Jared Jestice – Kitfox IV