Last Saturday, National STOL and BurstixTV on Twitch teamed up for the inaugural National eSTOL competition in Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. This trial run, with select pilots participating by invitation only, mimicked an IRL (“in real life”) National STOL competition, complete with broadcast, live announcers, a virtual airboss, and scoring of three competition runs. The competition took place at Johnson’s Farm (OVJF), in scenery custom built based on an farm/backcountry strip in Northern California. The custom scenery is available for free PC download at Flightsim.to (xBox coming soon).
Microsoft Flight Simulator has a long history of being at the cutting edge of virtual aviation. While there are obvious differences from flying physical aircraft, BustixTV states on Facebook:
…as technology has gotten better, MSFS has become so much better than ever before.
I did not finish flight school; unfortunately, $320 an hour back then was too expensive for me to pay up-front on my own, and I couldn’t get a loan at 18 with no credit or co-signer. I was however chipping away at those hours, then the flight school closed, I got a decent job (outside of aviation) and put aviation on the back burner.
8 months ago I…decided to try (Microsoft Flight Sim) again. Went to a twitch stream to check out what others were doing in Sim, and found out about Bush, STOL, Backcountry through a twitch stream! 8 months later here we are, I aspire to get my LSA, and possibly PPL!
MSFS is how found STOL, I DEFINITELY caught the bug from sim!
3 of the National eSTOL pilots that flew in today’s event are currently in flight school, and also credit the flight sim for a big part of their success so far through real world flight school!
I have no doubt we will see some of them compete in-person at National STOL events in the near future!
This also allows people that have a passion for aviation, but are unable to get licensed for health or monetary reasons, compete and fly planes in Sim that they don’t have the ability to in real life!
With more than 12 million active users annually, collaborating with sim pilots for an eSTOL series aligns with National STOL’s pillar to grow general aviation and to make flying more accessible to the next generation.
More from BustixTV on Twitch on how the National eSTOL Series came to be:
I had always been interested in Rotorcraft aviation, due to my 26 or so hours of training in an Enstrom F-28C2, until I found Bush Flying. It started with just trying to learn this fascinating technique used in Bush Flying called “STOL”. That’s about all I knew about it at that point. So along with help from a few great Bush Aviators from the Sim, and from a YT video about flying STOL IRL, I learned how to do it in sim. I was streaming already at this point and was interested in hosting group flights.
One day, most likely due to my recent YT browsing of videos like, “learn how to fly STOL”, I saw a video of Steve Henry. That same day I saw another of a younger guy in a yellow cub learning to fly STOL for Competition (I can’t remember who). Then I saw another of a full STOL Competition, and they also had a balloon pop. People were flying in, the community seemed super nice. It was just appealing.
I got really interested in STOL, and as the stream on Twitch grew, I wanted to have a Competition of my own. I saw ANN0V’s Johnsons Farm. I knew him a little bit already, and he was looking for a streamer to put his Farm “on the map” if you will. So I started running practice comps just in my stream, ANN0V noticed, everyone was seemingly noticing because it kept growing. Then ANN0V created a logo one day, I was like hey, let’s see if we can get one of the casters from National STOL to do this. That idea hatched some time after a YT comment of mine was featured on screen, by who I now know was most likely Tom (Wolf), during a National STOL Series Competition Broadcast.
I emailed Tom with my idea. He seemed as if he had been thinking about this very thing, but hadn’t had the time to throw it together. He shot me his phone number around the time of Sodbusters and told me to text him after OshKosh. We talked about a week after OshKosh. That whole time I had ideas rolling around in my head because Tom seemed to be interested in it, ANN0V and I were discussing it throughout that whole time period, and by the time I talked to Tom, it felt like he had been doing the same thing because when we chatted on the phone, it was like I was talking to myself.
We picked up some great team members in Sim and IRL along the way, and created the awesome event that was showcased last weekend. As a result, we plan to recreate the entire 2023 National STOL Series season with National eSTOL, complete with all 8 STOL strips modeled in Sim just like they look in person.
In last weekend’s competition, 19 eSTOL pilots demonstrated the capabilities of their virtual aircraft:
In the Touring Class…Four different 1962 PZL-104 Wilgas competed against a 1964 Piper PA-24-250. The Wilgas reined supreme with 1st place going to Blitz Pennington from Michigan with a best combined run of 263′. He was followed by Tom Smith (Pennsylvania) with a combined score of 335′ and Keith Charlet (Louisiana) at 349′. Mark Baracus from Great Britain took 4th at 460′, and Midnite Raine from Maine in the Piper finished in 5th with a lowest combined run of 671′.
In the Backcountry Class…In a line up that looked much like our in person STOL competitions, Cessna 170Bs faced an Aviat Husky A1C and uniquely, a Cessna 152. Outside Bad from Croatia took first place in his Cessna 170B with a score of 315′. Isaac Lane from Illinois placed second in the Husky at 412′, followed by Byron Bowman (Cessna 170B, Kentucky) at 560′. Frankie Poops in the final 170B (New York) finished 4th at 685′ and Felix Joelsson of Norway in the lone 152 finished 5th at 718′ combined take off and landing.
In the Unlimited Class…It was a battle down to the wire between Kat Blueflame (Great Britain) and Lucy Radstaak (Netherlands) in their 2000 Zenith CH701s! In the end, Blueflame placed first at 52′ with Radstaak just 21′ behind with a lowest run of 73′. Third place went to Allie Symonds of Australia in a 2000 Kitfox Series 5 at 160′, followed closely by Kaela Nikolaev (Florida) in another Kitfox Series 5 at 165′. 5th place went to Riley Wilson of Canada, 254′ in a 2018 Slin Savage Gravel, and 6th place to KC Crozroads (United States) with 291′ in a 2021 Zlin Savage Carbon.
In the Exhibition Class…Bryant Hull and Tom Smith, both from Virginia, competed in 2023 Double Enders with Hull besting Smith 91′ to 143′. Aspen Driver from Ohio (a National STOL volunteer in real life) showed off his skills in a 1976 PIlatus PC-6, with a shortest combined distance of 825′.
With a successful premiere in the books, the National eSTOL series looks to expand during the IRL STOL winter offseason. Sim pilots looking to learn more can join the National STOL Discord at nationalstol.com/chat, and are encouraged to join BurstixTV’s group flights or National eSTOL practices, which take place every Sunday at 11am EST on Twitch.
Many thanks to the sponsors of the first National eSTOL event:
The full recording of the eSTOL livestream can be found on YouTube.
Be sure to join us for the final physical National STOL event of the 2023 season, either in person at Sulphur Springs Municipal Airport in Sulphur Spring, TX, or streaming on the National STOL Facebook and YouTube pages!