Who’s the best Husky pilot? Find out this weekend

Published 12:51 pm Thursday, September 7, 2023

The inaugural Deep South Husky Shootout takes flight this weekend at the Jennings Airport as dozens of pilots compete for bragging rights as the best Husky pilot.

Admission is free to the public.

The event is a spin-off of the national Husky Short Takeoff and Landing (STOL) competition, which has been held in Jennings for the last three years.

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This event is kind of neat because you are going to see all kinds of aircraft,” organizer and pilot Matt Peterson said. “It is open registration so we are going to have Cessnas, Pipers, taildraggers….all different kinds of aircraft and because there are so many cool antique aircraft in the area, including Stearman, there might be some one-of-a-kind antiques flying.”

Pilots from Jennings, Lake Charles, New Orleans and Baton Rouge, as well as Mississippi, Alabama and Kansas will have their flying skills pushed to the limit while being judged for the length of their takeoffs and landings. Many of the planes will be stopping by on their way to the Reno Air Races in Reno, Nevada, he said.

“These are neat airplanes that people want to see fly,” Peterson said. “An airplane kept in the hangar is not nearly as exciting as the airplane flying right in front of you.”

Although the event will not be as large or broadcasted on You Tube like Swamp STOL, Peterson is still hoping for a large turnout.

“I have a feeling this first event is going to be a good one,” he said. “If we just have 10 Huskies on the field, it will be a raging success. It’s the Deep South Husky Shootout, we are trying to find out who the best Husky pilot is, but I’m gonna be out there in my 1957 Cessna 172 having a good time, too.”

Bragging rights and trophies await the top pilots with the winning Husky aircraft pilot awarded an all paid weekend getaway to L’auberge Casino Resort in Lake Charles.

The planes will begin arriving at noon Friday, Sept. 8 before flying to DI’s Cajun Restaurant at 4 p.m. The fun continues at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 9 with the first round of competition.

The final rounds and Husky shootout are scheduled for 1 p.m. with an awards dinner that evening.

The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Chapter 541 will be selling jambalaya dinners during the lunch break from noon-1 p.m. Saturday. There will also be live music during the break.

“It’s a great thing to do on a Saturday, especially if you have kids who are interested in airplanes because you will be able to get right up on the airplanes and talk with the pilots.,” Peterson said.

The single-elimination event will focus on piloting skills and less about the aircraft, Peterson said.

Two aircraft will face off in each heat with each pilot’s takeoff and landing distance recorded. The pilot with the shortest distance will advance to the next level while the pilot with the longest distance returns to parking. The elimination process continues until the best pilot in each class merges victorious.

Peterson said he hopes the event will attract pilots who have never done a STOL event before.

“We want this to be an introductory event so that a pilot who wanted to dip their toe in a STOL event could try this out in a very safe and low risk environment,” he said.  “I’m hoping they come out and have such a good time, especially in Jennings, that they will want to go to a national STOL event.”

Peterson said Jennings is a perfect place for aviation events because pilots can fly in and get a hotel room right at the airport and within walking distance of many restaurants and stores.

“I think we could get into a rhythm of having an aviation event in Jennings every six months,” he said. “With the (Jeff Davis Parish) Tourism Commission and Mayor’s Office, Jennings is kind of the easy button.”

“The hotels are right there. There’s a big selection of great restaurants and lots of awesome live music you can’t hear anywhere else in the United States. Folks work with you. What we are hoping to do is fill the hotels up and make sure everybody has a good time and wants to come back to Jennings, La.”

Spectators are welcome to bring lawn chairs, umbrellas and coolers. Dogs on leash are also allowed.