JENNINGS - The Jennings Airport will be buzzing with activity this weekend as pilots swoop down and perform precision short field landings and takeoffs during the inaugural Swamp STOL (short takeoff and landing) Husky National STOL competition and fly-in.
“Short takeoffs and landings - STOL for short, is the fastest growing sport in aviation and it has really grown each year with new competitions all around,” organizer and pilot Matt Peterson of Baton Rouge said. “This marks the first official National STOL competition in the state.”
An airport director in Jackson, La., Peterson has been flying since he got his pilot’s license five years ago. He is new to STOL competitions, having been competing for just a year.
Peterson describes the competition as a cross between a drag race and an airplane competition to see how short a pilot can take off and land in feet and inches. The winner has the shortest combined takeoff and landing distance.
“The Husky National STOL contest is the only National STOL contest that travels around the country giving local pilots a chance to test their skills against some of the best in the lower 48,” he said.
Peterson is hoping to make Jennings the STOL Capital of the South by hosting the event annually.
He said the Jennings Airport is ideal for the event because pilots can park their planes in the grass field and walk to nearby hotels.
Some 35-50 aircraft of all kinds including light touring, experimental and antique planes are expected to attend the inaugural event.
“If you are interested in aviation or airplanes, this is an event for you,” Peterson said. “It’s loud, but you are right there watching it happen.”
The pilots from across the country including Washington state, Florida and Minnesota will begin arriving today. The air traffic controller and crew will be flying from Alaska.
The event kicks off at 9 a.m. Friday with semi-finals and continues with the finals at 9 a.m. Saturday. Gates open at 8 a.m. both days.
Besides watching pilots race in the air, spectators will also be able to look at the planes up close and visit with the pilots before and after the competitions.
“There’s nothing more that a pilot loves to do than to talk about his airplane,” Peterson said. “They are always glad to talk about it. They especially love having kids out there because they are the next generation of aviators.”
After the competition on Friday, the event will feature a concert by the Bernie Alan Band.
Tickets for Swamp STOL at the gate are $5 for a single day pass or $8 for a two-day pass.
Spectators are invited to bring their lawn chairs and umbrellas and spend the day.
Food trucks and vendors will be on-site both days.