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STOL Competition Highlights Valdez Fly-In

STOL competition
Paul Claus in his Cubcrafters Carbon Cub competes in the STOL competition at the 2010 Valdez Fly-In and Air Show, Alaska. Claus won four of the five categories. Photo by Brady Lane

DC-3
A Buffalo Airways DC-3 in flight. Look for a feature article about the airline in the August issue of Sport Aviation. Photo by Brady Lane

May13, 2010 — The legend of the Alaskan bush pilot is infused with feats accomplished in aircraft that are rarely seen anywhere else. We have all seen the videos of pilots landing on sand bars and in tight tree-lined mountainous areas. Each year at the Valdez Fly-In and Air Show they celebrate the tradition and skill of the bush pilot with the Short Take Off and Landing (STOL) competition.

While competitors come from all over, this year a bush pilot from Alaska fittingly won four of the five competition classes including: Heavy Touring STOL, Alternate Bush, Bush Challenge Take Off, and Bush STOL. More videos are expected to appear on the web but here is one showing a few segments of the completion at 2:08, 3:00 and 3:49 into the five-minute video. Watch on Oshkosh 365.

EAA Multimedia Journalist Brady Lane was in the region for a Sport Aviation story and was very impressed with the skill exhibited by the pilots at last weekend’s event (May 7-9).

“These guys are the best of the best; they not only practice STOL but they live it. To fly anywhere in Alaska, you have to have impeccable STOL technique,” Lane said. “It’s a whole level of proficiency that I have not seen anywhere in the lower 48. To see an airplane to take off in less than 50 feet blows your mind.”

One pilot he talked to said this is the only time of year he lands on asphalt. Paul Claus, of Chitina, Alaska, dominated the competition this year, and has over 20,000 hours in bush aircraft. He told Lane that if you have 500 hours you are not going to be flying like this - even with 10,000 hours it is going to be a challenge. Of course experience counts as Claus holds the Valdez takeoff record of 19 feet and the landing record of 52 feet.

'Ice Pilots' to be Featured in August Sport Aviation
What was Brady Lane doing in Alaska? Before he visited Valdez, he was flying around Canada’s Northwest Territories with fellow Sport Aviation columnist Lauran Payne for a story about Buffalo Airways, a passenger/cargo airline that flies DC-3s in the Canadian North. Some may know of this airline through the reality program Ice Pilots, which airs on History Television, a Canadian cable channel. Look for Lauran and Brady’s story in the August issue of Sport Aviation.

 
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