Everyone needs a hobby, from video games to historical re-enactors. But this weekend in Valdez, Alaska, pilots of all stripes will be showing off their skills in the Short Take-Off and Landing (STOL) Competition at the annual Valdez Fly-In and Airshow. Far from the comforts of large, well-kept airports, pilots operating in the backwoods need mere feet to land and takeoff, opposed to the 1,000 to 1,500 feet typically used. This weekend, they'll prove it.
And these aren't your everyday small aircraft, either. Wired writes about the modifications to one young entrant's plane, to help him compete:
The massive 35-inch tires are inflated to less than 3 psi to absorb the impact of landing on rocks and other debris. They also give the wing a high angle of attack to aid in decreasing the takeoff and landing distances. The engine has been stroked out an additional 15 cubic inches (375 total) and puts out around 210 horsepower. To help balance the heavier engine, the composite propeller weighs just 14 pounds. The result is helicopter-like performance.
Just how little space do these pilots need? Read on after the break to see a video of a super-slow landing, and shockingly fast take-off.