Northwest Arkansas’ rugged terrain drew seasoned aviators and enthusiastic spectators to its inaugural ArkanSTOL Ozark Backwoods Challenge in September. And while most competitors have been flying for years or even decades, it’s a newcomer—17-year-old Jaden Newman—who proved she’s the one to watch, having placed second after earning her pilot certificate earlier this year.
Taking place at Byrd’s Adventure Center, the event was unlike any other STOL competition. Pilots were tested on their skills and judgment while dealing with extreme terrain and challenges, including unpredictable river valley winds. Despite the challenge, Newman gave the competitors a run for their money—finishing second in the light sport category just half a second behind winner Steve Henry with a time of 2:38.7 minutes.
AOPA caught up with Newman to talk about the ArkanSTOL competition and her experiences flying as a young competitor.
I went up with my mom and dad on a test flight with an instructor and I really enjoyed the experience.
I fly a 2009 CubCrafters [Carbon Cub SS], I also fly a Cessna 172 and a Sling 2, I have flown an American Champion Scout and a TBM 850.
A little over 300 total time—about 150 in the Cub, 70 in the Cessna, 80 in the Sling and just a few in the Scout and TBM 850.
Yes and it was the time of my life!!!!
The freedom it gives me and overcoming the challenge to land at new spots.
Mike Patey, Steve Henry, Trent Palmer, Jonas Marcinko, Kevin Quinn, Cory Robin, my flight instructor—Dennis Duggan and my dad! I also met a new one at ArkanSTOL—my new mentor and someone I look up to—Joe Edwards.
After I received my tailwheel endorsement on February 22, 2020, I would fly low-and-slow almost every evening after school in the adobe hills next to Montrose, Colorado. I also spent a lot of my flying time exploring new landing spots in Moab, Utah, and around the Uncompahgre Plateau.
I would like to continue making flying a career and a hobby!
Flying in a Carbon Cub as a backcountry flight instructor, a corporate pilot or a crop duster. I would also like to train young kids in aviation.
Trying to find the time to pull myself out of the airplane to study for all the written exams.
I can’t think of just one, but here are a few of them: Learn what the airplane is going to do before it does it. Feel the airplane and become one with it. A good pilot is a smooth pilot. Never quit flying the airplane.
Yes! STOL competitions, aerobatics and air racing are all on my list of things to accomplish and be proficient at.
Yes, for STOL competitions I love flying the Cub. I would also love to fly an F–16 or an FA–18. If I could fly aerobatics, I would love to fly an [MX Aircraft] MX2.
It came as a shock! When I first arrived, I was just happy to have the opportunity to try and qualify. After I qualified, I was honored to participate in the [event]. I had [no] expectations to do so well.
I have learned to always know there is more to learn and listen to those who want to share their knowledge and experience.
I would also like to give a huge Thanks to those who supported me before, during and after the event. So many spectators (Mary Deatrick, Greg Simmons, Warren Grob, Jay Stanford and Chuck Kinberger), other participants (Rob Brady, Levi Noguess, Steve Henry and Steve Pierce and Dale Mitchell), news crews, event volunteers (Rob and Andrea Hill) and event coordinators (John Young, Rusty Coonfield, and Joe Edwards). I made so many new friends that I now call family. I would also like to thank my sponsor: Acme Aero (Matt Mcswain and Eric Robinson) who believed in me. Also my mom, dad, brother (Dustin, who is in the Air Force stationed in Anchorage, Alaska!) and family who have been there throughout this whole process.