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Student pilot wins spot landing contestStudent pilot wins spot landing contest

If you doubt the existence of natural-born pilots, Jacob Barson of Allentown, Pa., is likely to change your mind. He won a spot landing contest on May 7, beating out eight other seasoned pilots. He’s a student pilot. And he’s 14.

Not only did he come in first, but Jacob also drew the No. 1 position for the contest, held at Allentown Queen City Municipal Airport. He had to be the first one to test wind speed and direction as he conducted a power-off landing—and the other competing pilots could gauge his performance to help theirs.

Spot Jacob Barson, 14, of Allentown, Pa., won a spot landing contest May 7 at Queen City Allentown Municipal Airport (KXLL). The student pilot outperformed eight other seasoned pilots.

Still not convinced? It was Jacob’s first flight since December 2010.

“Most people come in too short but he had enough ability” to pull it off, said Chic Hibert, Jake’s flight instructor at Gateway Aviation. “He didn’t use flaps until he had to.”

“He’s a natural,” said Randy Barson, Jacob’s father. “But he has a good instructor.”

More than one pilot who watched Jacob touch down proclaimed that the contest was over before it had a chance to get started. How did a student pilot compete in a spot landing contest? For this competition, designated pilot examiners went aloft with all contestants. Designated Pilot Examiner Paul Senyak was in the right seat of Jacob’s airplane.

Jacob trains in a Cessna 152. He’s been flying with his father since he was very young. Randy owns and flies a Cessna 340, a Piper Cherokee 140, and a Robinson R22. Jacob has flown in them all.

He intends to get his private pilot and commercial certificates and instrument rating. Acknowledging that he has a bit of a wait until he can solo, much less get his ticket, Jacob simply said “Fly!” when asked how he’ll pass the time between now and then.

Spot Landing

Photo credit: Bob Marsh.

And he’s not kidding. Jacob and his father are in the market for a clean Cessna 152 in which the younger Barson can complete his training. A tentative deal to purchase one fell apart just days before the spot landing contest. Jake was disappointed but not defeated, and asked that interested sellers get in touch. If you have a Cessna 152 or know of one for sale, email him.

Jill W. Tallman

Jill W. Tallman

AOPA Technical Editor
AOPA Technical Editor Jill W. Tallman is an instrument-rated private pilot who owns a Piper Cherokee 140.

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