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Valdez STOL distances get shorterValdez STOL distances get shorter

2018 event sees new takeoff, landing records2018 event sees new takeoff, landing records

Poor weather in the days leading up to the fifteenth Valdez Fly-In and Air Show, May 11 through 13 at Valdez (Alaska) Pioneer Airport, held down the 2018 attendance—but it did not keep participants in the short-takeoff-and-landing (STOL) competition from setting new event records.

Short Work

Frank Knapp competing in Lil Cub. Photo by Mike Collins.

Frank Knapp of Palmer, Alaska—who won the overall event last year with a total score of 25 feet—retained that title this year, with a slightly higher overall score of 33 feet. (Under the Valdez STOL competition rules, takeoff begins from the starting line, and judges measure where the main wheels leave the ground; on landing, mains cannot touch down before the line, and distance is measured from where the mains stop.) However, he set a new Valdez takeoff record, lifting off his highly modified Piper Cub in 11 feet.

Dan Reynolds of Dawson City, Yukon, Canada, captured second overall in the event—and set a new Valdez landing record of 9.5 feet, breaking the previous record of 10 feet, five inches set by Knapp just last year.

For the flavor of this popular annual event, which marks the beginning of spring for many Alaskan bush pilots, see the article “Short Work” in the May 2018 AOPA Pilot about the 2017 Valdez Fly-In. 

“We did not have as many planes this year,” said Valdez Fly-In President Joe Prax. “The weather before [the fly-in] was not good. We had about 70 planes on Saturday.” The 2017 event saw 157 airplanes on the field Friday night, which is the event’s record. However, he said, the fly-in’s live streaming online had more than 200,000 views from around the world. “We had attendees from Iceland, Switzerland, France, Spain, and Australia, and pilots who flew in from Canada, Florida, and California,” he added. 

Dan Reynolds of Dawson City, Yukon, Canada, pumps his fist after setting a new Valdez Fly-In landing record of 9.5 feet in his Birdman Chinook. He took second place in the overall competition on May 12. Photo courtesy of Joe Prax and the Valdez Fly-In.

Twenty airplanes flew out for the beach landing Friday evening, Prax said. Weather canceled that popular aspect of the fly-in in 2017. Gary Ward and Scott Sexton provided aerobatic demonstrations, and a Curtiss C–46 Commando from Everts Air also made several flights. “We did measure the C–46 takeoff at 520 feet,” he added. “They were not able to use max power.” 

Class winners for the 2018 Valdez STOL contest were: Heavy Touring, James Spokes of Wasilla, Alaska, Cessna 180A, takeoff 119 feet, landing 152 feet, total 271 feet; Light Touring, Isaac Bedingfield of Bethel, Alaska, 85-98-183; Light Sport, Frank Knapp of Palmer, Alaska, modified Cub, 11-22-33; Bush, Jacob Williams of Palmer, Alaska, Piper PA-18 Super Cub, 58-78-136; and Alternate Bush Class (Experimental), Toby Ashley of Palmer, Alaska, Carbon Cub, 29-76-105. Complete results will be posted on the event’s website

Prax said that with a sea-level elevation, steady sea breeze, and cool temperatures, Valdez is well suited to STOL contests. He said this year’s winds, at 12 to 15 knots, were slightly weaker than 2017’s steady 15-knot breeze, which could have affected the results.

Mike Collins

Mike Collins

Technical Editor
Mike Collins has worked for AOPA’s media network since 1994. He holds a private pilot certificate with an instrument rating.
Topics: Backcountry, Takeoffs and Landings

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