The 2022 STOL Invitational—part of the Twilight Flight Fest at EAA AirVenture—featured standing-room-only crowds on the ultralight field, as people began gathering more than an hour in advance to secure a good viewing spot to see their favorite STOL pilots and YouTube stars.
The past few years have seen an enormous increase both in pilots and spectators. It is rumored that next year the event may take place on a new field in a different location, but time will tell. For the 2022 event, spectators stood five deep in full bleachers, looking over each other’s shoulders to try to get a glimpse of the line where pilots would be measured from.
Juan Browne (of the YouTube channel “blancolirio”) was on the mic as other STOL pilot volunteers wearing fluorescent green vests took the field to measure and root for their flying compadres in the event. This was an outstanding show of support guided by famed STOL pilot Frank Knapp, and his wife, Kris, among others.
Although the Twilight Flight Fest is an invitational demonstration only, the spectators and pilots see it differently—no one “took it easy” and all were going for the shortest takeoffs and landings possible. Each of the four evenings that the STOL demos took place, the crowds were large and excited, cheering on their favorite pilots.
The cheers really increased in volume for three distinct and well known pilots: No. 46, Warren G. (who is single-handedly bringing fanny packs back into style in GA), No. 3, Hal Stockman, and No. 44, Steve Henry.
The demo took place in the evening light, allowing everyone to show off their LED landing lights and “wig/wags.” The lighting was not regularly installed by pilots until the last few years when demos took the Oshkosh events into the sunset hours, prompting everyone to catch up with the times. Even super weight-conscious Steve Henry was sporting a new full-time Aero LED package for the only night of the year he competes near dark.
Over the four nights of flying, scores were kept and the shortest runs for all days were ranked, placing Henry in his Wild West Highlander as the overall winner, with Stockman and his Rans S-7S taking second place—and up-and-comer Jared Jestice in his Kitfox 4 taking third.