Alaska pilots stand out at Oshkosh short takeoff and landing competition

Colleen Mondor

The Experimental Aircraft Association released the results of the "short takeoff and landing" competition held Friday during the annual AirVenture aviation gathering in Oshkosh, Wisc., and Alaskan pilots took the top two positions.

The STOL competition has long been a hallmark of the Valdez Fly In and Air Show each May, with pilots there sharing their sometimes staggering ability to take off and land their aircraft in incredibly short distances. The recent competition in Oshkosh -- part of the largest annual fly-in event in North America, and attended by 500,000 annual visitors -- was the first of its kind held at the gathering, and is patterned after the Valdez event. Several Alaskan pilots were invited to attend this year as part of the overall group of 18 competitors, all of whom wowed the crowd with their prowess at this unique competition.

According to the official results, each finalist was allowed two runs, with the lowest total used to calculate the final score. Palmer pilot Frank Knapp, flying his Cub-X kit plane N85CX, won the event after a takeoff in just 72 feet, and landing in 62 feet, giving him a winning total of 134 feet. Knapp also won the Alternate Bush Class in Valdez earlier this year with a total of 76 feet.

In second place was Sterling pilot Bobby Breeden, with a total of 197 feet -- 72 feet at takeoff and 125 feet at landing. Breeden won the Bush Class in Valdez this year at 116 feet.

Third place at EAA went to Steve Henry of Nampa, Idaho at 206 feet, the total from both of his runs -- 98-foot takeoff and 108-foot landing, and 102-foot takeoff and 104-foot landing. Texan Scot Warren took fourth with a takeoff of 115 feet and a landing of 151 feet, for a total of 266 feet; Pops Dory of Austin, Nevada took fifth place with a takeoff of 98 feet and a landing at 190 feet, for a total of 288 feet; and Dennis Wittenberg of Cornelius, Oregon took sixth at 315 feet total. According to his online bio with EAA, Wittenberg flies float planes in Alaska each summer.

Evert's Air Cargo flight engineer Sam Hale posted a ten-minute video on YouTube a couple of months ago of the Valdez competition which provides a great look at Knapp's stunning 35-foot landing there, among many other highlights. The EAA also posted spotlight articles on many of the STOL competitors which can be read online.

Contact Colleen Mondor at colleen(at)alaskadispatch.com.