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National STOL was designed to focus on basic pilot skills, and to reinforce critical skills in on and off airport STOL takeoffs and landings. In the competition, pilots complete a series of 3 takeoffs and landings. We measure from a start finish line to where the main wheels stop. If you main wheels touch short of the line on landing, it’s considered a DQ, and that round does not count. The shortest combined score is the winner. If at any point you feel that you’re in an unstable approach, you can go around. SAFETY is key in our competition. We’ve broken up the competition into classes, where aircraft compete in like types. A 172 will be in a class with other Maule M7’s, 170s, and 175s, and a stock airplane does quite well!

One of our first time competitors this spring was Bobby Kerr in his 1996 Maule M7-180A. Bobby is a college student in the Atlanta, Georgia metro area, and a private pilot with about 200 hours. The plane, which is completely bone stock – minus some carefully placed tennis tape on the yoke, did extremely well against like competitors. Bobby’s takeoff rolls in his Maule were averaging in the low 230s, with landings surprisingly similar, with most in the low 200s. One of his shortest landings was 183 feet. But, as we mentioned, Bobby was a completely first time competitor and has never been to one of our events previously.

We asked Bobby if he had any suggestions for pilots considering signing up, “Doing some kind of flying competition is something that I had wanted to for a long time until I found National STOL. The fact that you can use the airplane you most likely already have and the airport you’re based out of to practice is HUGE. With less than 200 hours of total time, I was able to fly and compete. You just won’t find that in many other series. Never in my life did I ever think that I would actually be competing.”

He continued, “If you’re even remotely considering it, go for it. Use those slow flight and short field landing skills that you’ve learned and just have fun. If you don’t think you’ll be competitive, do it anyways. You might surprise yourself, and flying against/with someone better than you is one of the best (if not the best) ways to improve your own flying.”

And he’s completely right. You can practice these skills at any local airport, whether it’s on asphalt, gravel, grass or turf. Practicing these Short Takeoffs and Landings will make you a more confident pilot when it comes to getting in and out of tough strips, and most importantly, requires you to absolutely nail a landing spot.

Moreover, with dozens of other competitors, the series allows you to find other pilots, who are always trying to teach others how to challenge themselves and be a better pilot. Our events are as much as a social event as they are a competition, because at the end of the day, you’re competing against yourself for the shortest score.

We’re back this week in Gainesville, TX on September 23-25, 2021. Thursdays are open practice, to let pilots get used to the runway, the field conditions and the local geography. Friday, the 24th, we’ll have qualifying, which is the first day of the competition. The top 6 pilots per class will advance to Saturday. After the qualifying, we’ll hold one more practice session. On Saturday we hold the finals, where each pilot runs 3 times again. The final scores are all based on Saturday’s competition.

Each day, we invite visitors to spectate practice and the competition. Thursday is completely free to observe, with Friday and Saturday $10 each day, or $18 online for the two days. We’ll be broadcasting live from the event, follow our Facebook page for more information!

Don’t want to go home for a minute and miss the fun? Pitch a tent, bring an RV, bring an airplane and sleep under the wing. Each night we’ll have food and social gatherings at the airport. Camping is $60 for the entire week, whether you fly, drive, or walk in.

Thinking about registering as a competitor? DO IT. You’ll love it. Entry is $100. There are more than $8000 in prizes and trophies. Almost any single engine fixed wing is welcome. If you have more than one engine, a helicopter, or happen to have a harrier? We’re more than happy to have you run in an exhibition class so you can show everyone your STOL Skills!

More information and tickets can be found on the main page of our website: nationalstol.com