Old-School Alaska Fly-In & FAA Flexibility

By Scott Spangler on May 22nd, 2011

In the last century, fly-in were about flying. Unlike today’s events, which cater to passive participants there to shop and watch other people fly, the pilots who flew in honed their skills by competing in takeoff and landing contests, flour bombing/message drops, and poker runs, where the winner had the best hand—and closest actual time to that on his or her dead reckoning/pilotage flight plan.

2011 Valdez Fly-In STOL Highlights

Like many, I’ve seen the video, like this one from 2011, about Alaska’s  short takeoff and landing competition. Curious about it, research introduced me to the Valdez Fly-In & Air Show, held every year in early May. And I learned that the STOL contest is just one of three events, with flour bombing and a poker run rounding out the competition.

Apparently that’s not all that’s different in Alaska. Consider this tidbit about the FAA buried in a Wired story on the fly-in. Competing in his first STOL contest was a student pilot from Virginia. Bobby Breeden, a high school junior, turned 17 a few weeks before the event. With 200 hours in his log, 99 percent of it in Super Cubs, including the souped-up, stripped-down Super Cub his father and he built for Valdez.

Bobby and his PA-18 are up first in the video, and he made the best takeoff, 36 feet. Unfortunately, score is kept by the sum of takeoff and landing. His best pairing netted a 50-foot takeoff and 51-foot landing, which earned him fourth. First place went to Ed Doyle, from Manhattan, Kansas, flying Mike Olson’s tricked out, nitrous-oxide enhanced 308-hp Cuzoom, with a 43/35 combination for a 78.

But I digress. During a ramp check before the event, the airworthiness certificate for Bobby’s Cub was missing. They found it back in Virginia, accidentally left behind in hurried pre-trip preparation. A family member e-mailed a photo of it to Bobby’s iPad, and the FAA said he could fly…if the iPad was in the airplane. Anyone want to give the odds of this happening in the lower 48? –Scott Spangler

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