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STOL Breaks Out of the Backcountry
By Kayla Floyd
July 27, 2019 - Kevin Quinn and Cory Robin, members of the EAA STOL demo group and the Flying Cowboys, are major influencers in the short takeoff and landing space. They're well known for inspiring both new and old aviators to get into the area of STOL flying. STOL flying has seen a burst in popularity lately, growing into aviation gatherings all over the U.S. and drawing international crowds. The Reno Air Races will now be presenting STOL drag racing and has seen promising enthusiasm from participants and onlookers.
The EAA STOL demos at the Fun Fly Zone have grown profusely over the years, Kevin said. "Just being part of the EAA Twilight Flight Fest demo that we do over on the ultralight field that we have done for six years, it has grown extensively. In the first years, you could always walk over and find a place to sit or stand, talk, and see people, and now you have to get there two hours ahead of time just to find a seat just to get up front and witness the action. Last night, when Cory [Robin] and I were walking up and down the field, because we couldn't fly last night due to an incident on Boeing Plaza, I bet we had four or five plus thousand people there and last night was the light crowd. The two previous nights I heard people say that they were guessing we had five, six, eight thousand people there. The runway was 60 people deep the whole way down."
They strive to be relatable to anyone who wants to get involved in aviation. They want people to see their content and performances and realize they can do that, too. Kevin explained, "STOL and STOL drag is accessible to everyone. It is basic skill set. To complete a race you take off and you fly; you do a slip, you come to a spot you land, you turn around and do that again. We aren't talking about advanced skill set. Other aerobatics are fun to watch, but people can't associate with it; they can't see themselves doing it. … It is a challenging skill set, but it is attainable. STOL drag, you can race a Cirrus, a Carbon Cub, a Highlander, Beavers; we even have Cessna 150s show up."
Both Kevin and Cory want to inspire aviators to get involved in STOL and backcountry flying, but beyond that they want to reach the next generation of aviators using social media. Kevin continued, "For the social media aspect, we are putting this kind of content online. Between all of the Flying Cowboys, we have 20 million followers. It is impressive to go to a place like Theatre in the Woods for a STOL forum and see that it is standing room only, and all we did was create a few videos that we want to watch and entertain ourselves because TV is horrible. We take a couple photos and you put it out on social media platforms, and all of the sudden people are seeing them and going, "Wow, that's neat," and you start to build this following. … We are putting this out there because we appreciate aviation and backcountry aviation. To take part in the fly-in and talk about STOL and off airport, we just want people to realize that is accessible to everyone."
Cory added, "It is so awesome. It's aviation, it is nature, it's the backcountry, and combining those elements is the reason why we share it, because if we didn't share it we would feel guilty. It is that good. It is almost as if you had tasted this delicious fruit and the first thing you want to do is show it to your best friends, and everybody, and spread it like it is the gospel."
STOL flying is gaining in popularity at fly-ins all around the nation. The inspiration for anyone to get involved often comes from the influence of social media and the enthusiasm that is passed through content. Anyone can become interested in STOL flying, and it can open a whole new world of exploration. The popularity of STOL flying will continue to grow in the aviation community due to the accessibility and relatable energy. Kevin ended with, "You really feel like you are obligated now to share it, because we have built this following and you don't want to let them down because you have a voice now. ... I am proud to say we are inspiring young aviators and old aviators alike to get into flying backcountry."