Super Cub Pilot Needs Mere Feet to Take Off

By Jason Paur

KNIK RIVER, Alaska – Unlike other places where speed may dominate pilot discussions, up here it’s all about how slow you can go. It’s directly related to how quickly you can get off the ground and how little room you need to land.

It’s called STOL, or “short take-off and landing,” and here in Alaska it is synonymous with flying.
This weekend pilots from throughout Alaska and across North America will converge on the coastal town of Valdez for the annual Fly-In & Air Show. The big event is Saturday’s STOL competition.

A typical pilot in a small single-engine airplane might use 1,000 or 1,500 feet to land on a paved runway, bush pilots often need just a few hundred feet. Sometimes less, because most of the time bush pilots aren’t landing on a runway or anything resembling one.

At the STOL competition in Valdez, takeoffs and landings are measured in tens of feet. Pilots pull up to a line and try to get off the ground with as little ground roll as possible. They also try to touch down as soon as they pass a line on the ground in the shortest possible distance.

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