Guest Blog: The Limits Of STOL Competitions


Last month I spent considerable time reflecting on the balance between risk versus reward, having completed the last leg of my journey home from Montana in less than favorable conditions. What drove me to reflect on those tense moments when the smoke obscured my visibility beyond expectations was an airplane that took off later that afternoon and tragically crashed just minutes from where I was just that morning. When I heard that the accident flight was a sightseeing flight in celebration of one of the pilots’ anniversaries, I was compelled to turn brain waves to keystrokes.

Above is a picture of the fourth (yes, fourth) airplane damaged at this year’s ArkanSTOL event. To be fair, three were just damaged airplanes, not life-threatening accidents. Taking place in the backwoods of the Ozarks, event creators have decided that in the world of one-upping STOL-themed competitions, they were going to take the gold, and it appears, in my opinion, as if they have.

When STOL competitions first started, it was merely about takeoff and landing distances. Purveyors of the High Sierra Fly-in decided that wasn’t enough, so they decided to add in a race-themed STOL contest that could turn into more of a spectator sport and through their recent acceptance with the FAA and the Reno Air Race Association, STOL Drag is taking the STOL competition world by storm, with licensed events happening all across the country.

But Byrd’s Adventure Center in Arkansas took the Billy Mays approach and added “but wait, there’s more” to the STOL competition world with what they call the “Ozark Backwoods Challenge.” Removing the thought of measuring takeoff and landing distances, adding in the concept of a timed race, and mixing in the complexities of multiple takeoffs and landings at different obstacle-confined airstrips in a small footprint, ArkanSTOL, and the mere participation in it, as one event purveyor has said, “is in itself worthy of praise.”

Much like the expanding world of STOL competitions, ArkanSTOL has damaged four airplanes, left one pilot who’s currently being solicited for thoughts and prayers, and now is causing a rift in the community outside of STOL competitions, outside of backcountry aviation, and outside of aviation as a whole.

ArkanSTOL, an event sponsored by the Aviat Aircraft Company, touts itself as “an entirely unique experience,” and having just reviewed the definition of the word, that description is well-fitting. Pilots who volunteer to take part in the Ozark Backwoods Challenge are tasked with taking off from one runway, landing and taking off at three other runways, and then returning back to the start runway where they must cross a timing gate to stop the clock on the course.

These runways, all closely located within what is called Byrd’s Adventure Center, vary in length from 600 to 1900 feet and are all surrounded by large trees, power lines, and the constant threat of the clock. What’s unique about this is that when STOL competitions started, the world-renowned Valdez STOL Competition and its contemporaries truly tested pilots in skills that translate to flying as a whole and to backcountry aviation specifically. In Arkansas, in my estimation, they’re doing stuff with airplanes that has no real-world application unless we’re searching for creative ways to raise insurance rates.

The event in of itself is so confusing that multiple videos and Google Earth flybys are required to understand what the race course is. At the real Reno Air Races, it’s quite simple. You fly fast, you fly low, you turn left at the pylons. In Arkansas, you need to take a few moments to not only understand the ideal flight path to cut down your time completing the course, but to determine how far you can land down the runways to minimize your need to taxi and turn around for the immediate departure required to be competitive.

If STOL Drag taught us anything at Reno this year, it’s that the urge to make that stop and turn around means that a few propellors are going to eat some dirt. We also learned how quick you can complete a sudden stoppage inspection of said engine, and the value of having a couple thousand dollars to send a mechanic and the parts necessary on a jet to get that engine turning again for the next heat. At ArkanSTOL last year, they just robbed one propeller off one Carbon Cub to replace one on another, because competition makes us do things like negate the counsel of manufacturers and mechanics. 

At this point, if it’s not clear to the reader, I’m not a fan of these STOL competitions. I have yet to see the fruits of what they bring to my niche of aviation besides the group texts that share the images of these airplanes on their back with the caption “another one.” We’re never surprised that airplanes end up like the one pictured above at the events like this, and, sadly, as fast as CubCrafters and Aviat are pumping airplanes out of their factories, they’ll never be out of airplanes to make unairworthy. And, thanks to the corporate sponsors that endorse these kinds of events, and the social media stars that perpetuate them, they’ll never lose the prying eyes of the spectators that have once come to these events to see that guy Trent Palmer who makes great videos fly, but now come like NASCAR fans to see who’s going to bend a nickel-edged prop first. 

When interviewed by local news outlets as neighbors choked back tears wondering when the next crash might come, ArkanSTOL event co-founder Rusty Coonfield said with regard to more accidents happening at this year’s event that with “what we’re doing … it’s a possibility.” Again, nobody is surprised this happens, yet we continue to let it happen. This innate unquenchable thirst for competition, for sponsorship, for internet points comes at a cost. And, while we send our thoughts and prayers to the pilot who’s suffering through the accident depicted above, I’m reminded of the following words from the late philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti, who said “Real learning comes about when the competitive spirit has ceased.” 

Roy Evans II is a professional aviator with over 25 years and 11,000 hours in all types of aircraft from light singles and twins to narrow body and wide body turbojet aircraft. He is president of the Utah Back Country Pilots Association.

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  1. Apples and Oranges. The fatal accident was not a part of the race and I call it wrong to even have mentioned that. Should the FAA ban local flour bombing and simple short take off and landing competitions, which I have seen student pilots taking part in?
    I am sick up to here with regulators wanting to control every aspect of human activities. Surely the owners of the planes taking part in STOL events are aware that it might cost them – a lot. Personal responsibility will suffer another blow if do-gooders keep putting a lid on human activities.

    • +1

      And why does any particular activity need to benefit the writer?

      “I have yet to see the fruits of what they bring to my niche of aviation…”

      • It doesn’t have to benefit recreational backcountry flying but it sure as hell shouldn’t be a detriment to it as well. My hope is that the STOL competition community takes the charge to not only make these events safe, but to avoid the PR disaster that was the genesis of my words above. It would be naive to think that there’s no cascading effects from events like this, when the trophies and sponsorships don’t outweigh the twisted metal and broken bones.

      • +2

        “Again, nobody is surprised this happens, yet we continue to let it happen.”

        Who is this “we” that let it happen?

        Shall “we” lay our bodies across the runway to stop these events? Shall “we” disrupt the traffic pattern to discourage such events?

        Of course not. What “we” means, is that a collective petitions a third party (here, it’s the FAA) to act on our behalf and “interest” to stop such events from taking place.

        “I have yet to see the fruits of what they bring to my niche of aviation”

        And I have yet to see the fruits of what flying around in a pre-WWII rag wing aircraft bring to my niche of aviation. Perhaps “we” need to ground piper cubs.

    • But it’s not personal financial responsibility, that’s the problem. We”re all in the same GA risk pool. If these folks want to forego hull insurance when competing in events where competitive drive, cutting corners & suspending good judgment out weigh other concerns, fine by me.

      But every flyer should not have to subsidize their behavior through increased ins premiums.

  2. So long as robust precautions are in place to protect the viewing public, I won’t through any shade toward folks risking their own life, limb and airplane in the newfangled STOL competitions. Let the insurance companies be the arbitrator of risk for the promoters, sponsors and pilots. STOL is only another of a growing list of many extreme sports.

    I personally don’t have much interest in attending, and zero interest, in participating in a STOL event. I do enjoy the STOL characteristics of my eighty five HP Piper Cub whether anyone is watching or not .

  3. I watch from Europe for decennia the aerobatic/show world in the US. Every Year a few famous names in the acro/demo world disappear in a fireball or a ghastly thud.
    Yes freedom to choose Your own activity, but no freedom for the ones that stay behind and have to cope with the years of mourning and devastation that follows a deadly crash.
    For what? For trying to show the limitations of the body, exposing it to unbelievable G-forces, roll rates with either grey or blackouts, G-locks and totally disoriented after the umpteenth outside flickroll. Too many crashes You see after the upset, the last seconds, nobody was controlling anymore with sense.

    For a long time ago a few loops and rolls would did the trick. Nowadays pilots are looking/have to be looking for such extreme manoeuvres in order to be invited. Many of them need the money from the event, to stay in the air for a few more hours.

    Even for me the extreme close flying of the Blue Angels, where from the videos one can start counting rivets, I wonder why this proximity is really necessary. Hardly any margin. Yes from the pilot’s vantage point it is extremely demanding, but do the onlookers see this also? Is it worthwhile the risk?

    • Actually, you just nailed the American spirit right on the head. We’re all a bit silly on this island of ours. Most of us descend from gullible Europeans, Asians, and Africans who were told that the streets were paved with gold and if we just stepped on this little boat (sometimes at gunpoint, by the way), the promised land lay just over the horizon. When they got here they found a land of terrible risk, hardship, and desperation. Yet by accepting these risks and pushing the boundaries of what seemed impossible, the naive and gullible wretched refuse somehow created the most powerful and influential society of modern times. Pushing ideas to the limit, and sometimes exceeding them, is truly a part of what makes America and American’s achieve all we have done. I again point to the crazy nut who’s building a private, reusable rocket system somewhere in Texas…

  4. The auto insurance industry addressed this by voiding any coverage during races or on tracks.

    Fair or not, if claims escalate I wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar reaction in aviation…the hope then is it’s not your favorite activity getting fragged along with this.

    • I was going to write exactly that; I’ve seen automobiles trashed at the dragstrip, and claims denied (you’d be shocked the amount of investigation an insurance company will do if they smell a rat!)

      • Good that they do.

        Where I live there have been causes of faking injuries.

        For example, after a minor accident a fraudster lays on the ground and moans.

        Fortunately in at least some of the cases I’ve read about there were independent witnesses.

        (The fraudster will of course have her own witnesses to lie in support of her lie. Often a family effort.
        Vote for more police.)

  5. Thank you Roy for being the adult in the room. What I’m hearing from you as much anything is a lament that enough has seemly become never enough. I’m hearing the question “will enough ever be enough?”

    Back country flying in most of the rest of the world is not sport and competition making you an internet hero funded by sponsors. It’s about not forgetting to load the mail, bringing people’s kids home from a semester of boarding school (yes real payloads consisting of real human beings). It’s not just about doing it today, but doing it next week, next month, next year, and the year after that with the same propellor, the same engine, the same airframe and the same pilot. And by the way, it’s not about how much money you have to spend on overpowered aerodynamic toys. It’s about doing it in what you have been assigned. It’s an environment in which you haul as much payload in and out as you can, meaning that every one of your airstrips has it’s own gross weight rating for the time of day and type of aircraft. It’s an environment in which some of your airstrips have a curfew because of tailwinds while landing uphill on a dogleg or taking off downhill on the same dogleg into a valley that clouds up after a certain time of day. It’s you and your organization who have established your own limitations, not the government because it’s you and your passengers’ lives on the line.

    In real back country flying, you and your passengers’ survival demands the discipline to void your backcountry flying of any competition. And this is the most difficult part of real back country flying; it demands the discipline and ability to gracefully and diplomatically say “no, we can’t do this, but we can do that”.

  6. The original Red Bull air races featured similar precision touch and goes, as I recall. Even with some of the world’s best airshow pilots participating, that format got discontinued.

  7. STOL as a capability is wonderful – STOL as a competition is silly and from an underwriters view, not without inordinate risk. Seen it, don’t get it, why are we doing this?

    • Well and succinctly stated! Like Charles Charlton and others, I too enjoy the STOL characteristics of my Zenith 750, but I reserve that capability for real-world operations–not make-believe or “competition.” “STOL DRAGs” or “Arkanstol” are more like racing–where crashes and fender benders lead to the famous quote–“rubbin’ is racin’!!!

      Airshows in general are a bore–extreme maneuvers–but at least they are performed by professionals. At Oshkosh, I leave the flight line and go inside the buildings to talk with the vendors–leaving the airshow to the “Whuffo’s” (as we call them in skydiving, as “Whuffo you jump out of that airyplane?”) That isn’t to say that an airshow can’t be a spectator sport–Bob Hoover made quite a career out of exemplary demonstrations of aircraft control.
      I don’t think these competitions should be outlawed—leave that to the insurance companies–but I DO BELIEVE THEY ARE “BAD FOR AVIATION.”

  8. Television coverage of people on the ground fearful for their lives because airplanes are crashing around them does little to promote a positive image of aviation. The event was poorly planned and executed in my opinion. I’m all for competitive air racing particularly if it advances the state of the art in aircraft design. Can the ArkaSTOL event do that? Sure, but it needs a much greater emphasis on safety or it have a negative impact on our aviation community.

  9. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

    A couple years back, after completing a circumnavigation following Amelia Earhart’s route, I was going to set the speed record for New York to Paris following Lindbergh’s route, leaving from Farmingdale, circling back over JFK, and finally landing at Le Bourget in Paris. I did the research on weather and there was no doubt my Mooney and I could shatter the record. I would just need to fly during winter and during a positive half of the North Atlantic Cycle. The airplane was always ready so there was no impediment.

    Then I considered the risk and reward. If I succeeded I would have my name in the record books and a plaque on my wall. If I encountered icing conditions there would likely be no place to go and I would probably die somewhere in the North Atlantic. I decided it wasn’t worth it.

    OK, so you think you can do something. Consider what you get if you do, and what you get if it doesn’t work. I suggest you remember, “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.”

    • And Amelia Earhart proved there is risk especially if not prepared.

      Things stacked against her:
      – she left a useful radio behind to save weight
      – she didn’t understand variation of DF ability of one radio with frequency
      – she did not know that time zones in the area varied, with half-hour ones common, so ‘Transmit at x after the hour’ meant different times to she and the US ship positioned to help navigation
      – didn’t help that she took off on fatal leg with less than full tanks, because muddy condition of runway reduced max takeoff weight
      – portable generator landed on Howland Island would not start, and the alternative of a battery was dead

      (Theories of where she and navigator went down vary, the Longs made a credible sounding analysis of probably just ditching when running out of fuel doing a square search, but TIGHAR makes a good case for crash-landing on a reef at Gardner Island to the south. (That theory considers they might turn southerly as there are other islands in that direction. TIGHAR has convincing data but no ‘smoking gun’.)

  10. I think Roy has a point to all of this but STOL competitions are here to stay. They need to evolve though to better fit in the industry and not hurt the average aircraft owner. Policy makers, insurance companies, airport managers, and city officials are not pilots and don’t see the competitions the way we as pilots do. I want to see more back country strips in my state, I want to see more dirt runway options at airports, and I want lower insurance rates. At the current structure of some of these events, its putting a lot of that at risk. It is easy for all the above to look at these STOL competitions and put Steve Henry and me in the same category. Because we look the same but in reality we couldn’t be farther apart. As stated by an above comment I think there should be stricter regulations for aircraft to enter these events. I mean you don’t see the same cars at a demolition derby as you do at a drag race. But that is where we are at with these competitions. I also think it should be required to be self insured if you are competing. I have also said before there should be punishments if you bend metal. If you prop strike in a STOL event you should have to take a penalty or something.

    That was a long way to say I think the STOL Drag and competitions could be really cool but right now we are still in early development and I would hate to see the actions of competitions bring a negative attitude towards the recreational flying that I do. I think there is a reason we are not seeing the RAF sponsor these events.

  11. Flying just above stall speed should only be done at an altitude where it can be safely recovered from twice… or when your wheels are six inches from the point of touchdown

  12. I have an idea. Let’s stop everything where people risk their lives. Let’s stop any type of racing whether on the water, ground, or air. Let’s stop shooting competitions (hey, sometimes bad things happen). Let’s stop football (every now and then, someone is injured severely or dies). In fact, let’s just stop any activity where death may occur. Stepping out of the bathtub, walking across the street, going out in public, breathing.

    There will always be people who must win. These people push the edge of the envelope and sometimes, pay the price for it. To suggest we stop pushing the envelope is to suggest we chose safety at all costs. Why is death at Reno any different than death at a STOL competition? Did we stop Reno? Will we never see a trim-tab failure event again which could take so many lives of the bystanders? Yet, the races continue. If you’re not comfortable with the risk, don’t go. It’s a free country. If you don’t understand why they do it, ask instead of condemn. It’s how we learn about each other.

    We’re not all cookie-cutter pilots (thank God!). If we were, we would never have test pilots, fighter pilots, STOL pilots, name-your-risky-flight pilots (and the level of risk you are personally comfortable with determines the label here). So, someone came up with a new contest the likes of which you would never fly in and don’t understand the mindset of those who do. That’s fine. It’s your opinion and this is an opinion piece. Just like it’s my opinion to disagree and hope they never stop pressing the envelope.

    If they decide they went too far, they’ll change the program (like Red Bull did). Until then, we get to see another competition which brings more press to the aviation community. Who says all press must be shiny and happy to grow the industry? The same people who have to be the best will see a place where they can learn and excel until they have realized a trophy in aviation – a career they may never have dreamed of before (not everyone wants to be a glorified taxi/bus driver in the sky). So, nay-say all you want. Those who’s risk/reward threshold is higher than yours will continue to reach far beyond what you consider “safe” – and some (not you) will revel in what they’ve accomplished.

    • Agreed. The reasoning of “we can’t allow X, because it gives us a bad image” applies to virtually any activity. It’s a universal argument for shutting down any activity that someone somewhere doesn’t like. Don’t use it and don’t give in to it.

    • Your analogies to car racing and Reno miss an important point: Modern versions of it are held on closed courses where spectator safety is paramount. Don’t forget the 1949 Cleveland event resulted in the effective banning of air racing for many years. Mr. Holdeman has it exactly right – those living around the contest airports didn’t sign up for this. Drag racing sanctioned by the NHRA took decades to dissociate itself from stoplight drags on public streets. Doing so did not kill off the sport, in fact, I would argue, it saved the sport. STOL contests can be done with much higher levels of safety and negligible risk to the public by running them in a way similar to IAC contests. This STOL event serves as an excellent example of what not to do.

  13. As long as they’re not running up insurance rates for the rest of us. Fine, I guess.

    But participants MUST to be in their own insurance risk pools, like Reno Air Racers. The idea of every other flyer sharing the financial risks in such sporting endeavors is nothing but one-eyed socialism: Private Profit, Public Risk or in this case Private Thrills, Shared Financial Burden.

    When we cruised our sailboat, we took all the financial risk on ourselves, foregoing hull insurance & instead relying on skill, judgment, & good equipment to mitigate the risks. If we’d ended up holed mid-Atlantic by a shipping container lurking just below the surface or up on a reef in the Caribbean, the total loss would have been ours alone.

    • ROFL

      A friend likes to ask “What’s the difference between the tooth fairy and the Kardashians?”

      The tooth fairy is real.


  14. I’ve talked to Avemco and side by side STOL racing such as in Reno and the High Sierra Fly-In are not covered. I would suspect more racing limitations are forthcoming. Check with your insurance carrier before entering.

  15. I won a short field landing competition back in College– it was great for all who competed, and watched. You learn a lot…it raises your skill level,
    It makes you a better pilot.
    Flying itself is risk, but the rewards are greater then anything you can imagine.

  16. The number ‘ONE’ issue in Aviation for the past several decades is the declining number of pilots. Less pilots, less aviating, greater the expense to aviate. WW I ended and with that came the roaring 20’s bringing on the “Flying Circus”. Aviation was introduced to millions through ‘Barn Storming’, ‘Wing Walking’ and so many other non-essential risky activities. These daredevils sparked a young person’s interest. Today, STOL competition is sparking interest in Aviation. Be encouraging and supportive, the Greatest Americans fought for our freedom to be risk takers.

    By-The-Way, These are the same people that are signed up for the draft. You folks knocking them will have no trouble asking them to fight the next war. Many of you will even insist they risk their lives to save yours.

    The Flying Cowboys have millions and millions of views to their ‘Aviation/Environment Conservation Advocacy’ videos… They’re good people. Has anyone reading this produced as much Aviation Advocacy lately? ???
    ….Whining and stifling is “Bad For Aviation”.

    • ref “by the way” many here have already answered that call.

      …and at least for me, I typically ignore all after “you folks”, “you people”

      • Thanks Rich, that’s very good social media etiquette advise. I’m turned off by those generalizing statements also. Emotional statements are unnecessary and cloud the the discussion. My bad.

      • No sweat, I have yet to achieve perfection in flying or writing!

        The blog and comments have informed, I support responsible passion for aviation, but not buffoonery…seems like both have been highlighted here. Buffoonery just encourages additional govt/insurance industry “help” if our community doesn’t self regulate. Airshow/formation quals and well thought out STOL events are positive examples of how to reassure that we have it under control. Other events that expose uninformed folks to involuntary risk is not how to engender trust in our community.

  17. I live very close to Byrd’s Adventure Center flying over it many times. My problem with ArkanSTOL is it is a non-vetted, run whatcha brung timed event which takes the contestant over parking lots, campsites, homes, RV’s, ATV’s, light poles, powerlines, and potentially over the restaurant depending on the route the contestant chooses. Add not only short strips and the local topography of tall trees, dense forests, and small mountains but landings and take-offs downwind in high temps, humidity with corresponding high density altitudes over obstacles including all of the above. ADM takes on a whole new meaning under these “rules”. All you need is an airplane and a pilot’s license to compete in this low speed twisting turning event with no “box” to stay in or boundaries separating spectators, neighboring homeowners, or unknowing patrons of all that Byrd’s offers outside of this aviation event from low flying, high pressure, low speed, non-vetted contestants. Qualifying is your practice time. Qualifying is the vetting. As long as you don’t crash, you can compete.

    This year the ADM of four pilots fell short of the challenges. It was not just bent metal or prop strikes, it was wrecks with serious injuries. Not every pilot has the skills of Steve Henry nor his 300HP in an 800lb airplane. It’s short term YouTube fame in exchange for another PR nightmare for general aviation as a whole. I can only imagine the national news when someone ends up crashing into a parking lot filled with RV’s, ATV’s, and guests.

    Arkansas has some of the best back country strips and flying in the nation. Sadly, ArkanSTOL is adding another stereotypical representation of Arkansas as a “hold my beer” state.

    No doubt, this is a very intense competition for those who have been competing in events such as the STOL Drags or High Sierra. And its challenges are unique from those two events. Could be a neat idea for those who have this need to compete with a well thought out plan of vetting competency and proficiency, tech inspections for the airplanes, and well defined boundaries that keep local patrons from being subjected knowingly or unknowingly from airplanes crashing because pilots at the controls cannot make their airplanes defy the laws of physics.

    Thank you Ron for having the courage to voice your opinion. I agree with you, your article, and your conclusions.

  18. As a pilot who raced the STOL Drags at Reno Air Races this year, and who refused to fly Arkanstol due to the dangerous format, I’m confused at your desire to lump the two events as the same as well as why you’re taking such offense in the existence of such events.

    Reno Air Races has been around since before I was born. I went to spectate as a kid, and I was awarded the privilege of competing there as an adult. The STOL Drags, as you mentioned, are FAA accredited and have yet to have a single serious crash or injury as a result of its actions.

    Arkanstol was dangerous by design. They had a crash last year, and the champion Steve Henry adamantly warned Rusty the death turn would be removed. In the end Steve Henry was not allowed to compete or even be listed as an alternate by Rusty. The turn induced low level high G turns that are unusual in bush flying and dangerous to practice and learn at low levels. Even after the four crashes the event organizers refused to change the course until last minute due to external outrage.

    The pilots are over trees, RVs, houses, power lines, and spectators in Arkanstol. And they’re pushing it. It is not only dangerous to the pilots but to innocent bystanders as well.

    STOL Drags are designed to be as safe as we can make them. We’re always over our runway. Our only non-level flight is a forward slip which, if one ever did get slow enough, though I’ve never seen it in competition, is a very benign and stable stall that could still be landed. Our turn arounds are on the ground so we have no concerns of G loading, or falling out of the air. If we mess up on a turn around it would likely be a wing tip or a prop to pay the price, not our lives or bodies. Of course we accept that the other pilot poses it’s own more deadly danger than the course itself, but we actively police any wingtips coming close to centerline and will not allow pilots to race unless they show sufficient control in straight and level flight and forward slips. If our engine dies, we don’t have to worry about RVs and power lines and getting back to a runway, we just put it down on the runway directly below us.

    You act like Reno showed STOL Drags as highly hazardous, however both props that hit the ground were inspected and continued to run. Both engines survived the prop strike without damage. Furthermore this was caused mostly by the course condition and lack of communication from the airport that ONLY the east end of the STOL Drag course had been graded. Pilots were told it would be graded dirt and gravel, and arrived with small tires for maximum braking ability and minimal rolling and air resistance. Both prop strikes were on aircraft running small tires that got stuck in holes. Both events would have been avoided if the west portion of the course was graded, and we’ve been assured it will be for next year. If there were planes falling out of the sky, the organizers would not have continued forward as if nothing was wrong. Any one actual plane crash would cause the event organizers to put their setup under immediate scrutiny. They would never want to encourage our pilots to do something if it’s known to be highly hazardous. Rusty of Arkanstol pushed the limits of gross negligence in his insistence to push forward with the event after planes continued to fall out of the sky.

    You name my brother specifically, the only person you name who is COMPLETELY unrelated to Arkanstol or the wreck. It was Trent Palmer last year, at the dinner table, who discussed Arkanstol and the dangerous format with me and we both came to the conclusion that we didn’t think the risk was acceptable. The turns, and crowded environment around the race area, make for too dangerous of a situation for race conditions. He did not make his feelings about the event public, because it’s not his place to try to end or discourage events he has nothing to do with.

    I do have a question, for you, Roy; why are you so offended by what others are competing in that you feel the need to publish an article discouraging all of them as a whole?
    Nobody gets hull coverage for race events, so your insurance will be fine. You obviously don’t seem too concerned about Corey, when he’ll be walking again, or if he’ll be able to resume his professional career after recovery. You seem convinced the manufacturers will replace the aircraft so you’re not emotional about historical J3s being destroyed. What’s your motivation for this?

    Any activity which discourages newcomers is destined to die out. These STOL competitions and STOL Drags (excluding Arkanstol) and their social media counterparts are bringing in more young pilots than your Utah Bush flying Association could ever dream of. They’re showing the adrenaline-driven guys that own motorcycles and UTVs and Jeeps and the like that airplanes can actually be affordable. They’re growing general aviation in a huge way, and it’s sad to me that you’re so offended by that.

    • I think there’s a misconception that I want STOL competitions to stop. While I’m not a fan, I’m not naive to the idea that a marketplace that now supports almost a half-million dollars for a cub-type aircraft makes my work with the UBCP more palatable with local, state, and federal land managers, owners, and officials. However, the accidents, the cowboy attitudes, and blatant disregard for the rules and regulations on where pilots can land isn’t helping much. However, I think there’s a great opportunity for your brother to share his perspective on these events, having been a competitor and likely one who helped get them to where they are now, only to come to his logical conclusion that he chooses not to compete anymore. To hear a Flying Cowboy talk about how they aren’t jumping at the bit for some time in the limelight may be a refreshing take on the issue, and a lesson that the youth that enjoy his videos can take into their own lives and flying careers. And if the UBCP was tasked with inspiring youth to become pilots, we’d never have time to open three airstrips across the state among the many other things we’ve done for backcountry aviators who come to our neck of the woods to enjoy some of the best flying around. Then again, we did have two of our members spend an afternoon at a local Girls in Aviation Day, showing them the joy that backcountry flying can bring. Sure didn’t see any Flying Cowboys take a moment to do the same.

  19. I never heard of Arkanstol but will look it up. Does it include good looking babe pilots? That would make it even better 🙂