Valdez, Alaska’s annual Fly In & Air Show gives working Alaskan bush pilots a chance to show off their skills and hardware in the Short Take-Off and Landing (STOL) competition. This year’s event has an interloper – a teenager from Virginia who isn’t even a licensed pilot.
STOL is a necessary skill for Alaskan bush pilots who must land, then get up into the air again, from surfaces that aren’t traditional runways. The air show turns this feat into a competition, where pilots must take off and land in distances measured in dozens (rather than hundreds) of feet.
The STOL competition has been dominated by pilots with years of experience. Enter Bobby Breeden. The Virginia high schooler says that five A.P. courses are getting in the way of his pilot’s license (he just turned 17), but that’s not stopping him. His instructor signed off to let him fly solo, so he signed up for the Fly-In STOL competition.
Bobby Breeden didn’t come out of nowhere to enter the STOL competition. His father Bob owns Alaska Airpark, an 18-lot “residential fly-in community” located in nearby Sterling, Alaska.
Bobby and his dad custom-built the orange Super Cub to compete in STOL competitions. They made enhancements to the landing gear, motor and propeller to help shorten the distance needed to get off the ground and back down again.