Virtual Event: What’s It Like to Invent a New Aviation Sport?

Meet Kevin Quinn: Self-described ‘flying freak,’ legendary pilot, and the inventor of the growing sport of STOL Drag.

This fireside chat recap is from FLYING’s “What’s Next in General Aviation” Virtual Event on Wednesday.

FIRESIDE CHAT TOPIC: How one creative STOL pilot invented an entire sport and founded a wild backcountry fly-in described as the “Burning Man” of aviation.

DETAILS: FLYING’s Lisa DeFrees talks with STOL pilot Kevin Quinn about how he founded Nevada’s High Sierra Fly-In and invented the sport known as STOL Drag.

SPEAKER: Quinn is a self-described “flying freak,” an ex-pro hockey player, certified flight instructor and founder of the High Sierra Fly-In.

BIO: Raised in Alaska, Quinn spent a lot of his childhood flying in the backseat of his father’s airplane. He earned his pilot’s license as a teenager. He retired as a professional hockey player in 1995 to focus on aviation and skiing. He founded Sierra Fly-In in Nevada in 2010. Most recently, the fly-in drew about 3,000 airplanes and about 1,000 people at the event. According to his website, Quinn spends his time flying airplanes, running his heli-ski operation in Alaska and being with his family.

KEY QUOTES FROM QUINN:

“I feel so lucky to be able to have these folks wanting to come see us in the desert and then of course all the like-minded individuals promoting aviation. There’s nothing like it. It’s awesome. That’s really how High Sierra was created—around my birthday with a handful of us and word of mouth got out that there’s a bunch of backcountry bumpkins having a good time. …When we started it was just us out there doing our thing. But now we’ve got our crash fire rescue and our paramedics and our EMS and our flight control tower and FAA creditation and waivers—you name it the list goes on and on for responsibility … It’s ‘Burning Man’ for aviation, without the drugs.”

“STOL Drag is everybody’s event. It’s a landing and takeoff event that’s like no other: literally straight and level down and back to complete stops, landing on heading, turning around, coming back, about 2,000 feet. There’s a lot that goes into it—power-energy management skills that we could talk more about but …traditional STOL was the baby for all this and it just grew into this crazy event now that we call STOL Drag and it’s just caught on like wildfire. Pilots love it. There’s a whole lot of skill and parameters that go into it. … Ultimately, the FAA is going, ’What you’re really doing is making good pilots better.’ And that’s the mission behind STOL Drag.”

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