“Time to spare? Go by air!” is a familiar humor line, speaking to weather uncertainties, mechanical delays, or relaxed cruise speeds that can slow or stall a cross-country flight in our fun, recreational aircraft. One man created his own special way to log some flight hours getting to Oshkosh. Evidently this adventurous pilot never heard another popular line: “The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.” (Don’t anyone challenge me with Great Circle routes; this is about a long flight but not a globe-spanning one.) While pilots around the nation are in various stages of preparation for the flight to EAA’s big summer celebration of flight, our aerial explorer is already en route. He’s about halfway as this is posted. Ambitious Journey I’ve had the pleasure to fly into Oshkosh a number of times. I’ve also several times flown with pilots making their first entry. Ask anyone who’s done it; joining the arrival pattern to Oshkosh on the busy days right before it opens is an experience no one forgets.
Viking Aircraft Engines
Phone: 386-566-2616Edgewater, FL 32132 - USA
Designing for STOLBy now, many readers may know the name Steve Henry, who has wowed crowds with his 300 horsepower Yamaha conversion engine on his highly modified Just Highlander. All these aircraft take off in surprisingly short spaces (50 feet is possible) but Steve's purpose-built aircraft fairly leaps off the ground. It almost looks unreal. Unfortunately Steve broke an axle and ended up on his nose in Wednesdays gusty conditions. Damage was reasonably minor — an advantage of landing so slowly perhaps — and he should be back in action soon. His is not the only aircraft designed specifically to win STOL comps. Viking Aircraft Engine owner Jan Eggenfellner has competed in some of these events in his Zenith Super Duty, three seater (two forward, one aft) with large tundra tires. His flat back with red accent airplane is powered by a 195 horsepower variant of his Viking line. He swings a giant 96-inch prop custom built for him by Duc Propellers. Yet, Jan's Monster STOL is very different from most STOL competitor aircraft in very distinctive way. It's a nose wheel airplane. That's extremely rare (although this CubCrafters nosewheeler exists). Why? The answer explains the project seen in nearby photos. For an already STOL aircraft like the Super Duty, getting an extra edge may take unusual steps. In order to get enough angle of attack to lift off in incredibly short distance by big horsepower, Jan wanted to angle the nose up further. He became limited by the tail of the airplane which nearly touches the ground on aggressive takeoffs. Monster STOL solves that problem, Jan believes. His dual aft shocks on each side have 18 inches of stroke. The tires aren't tundra but they're large. And standing Super Duty up on specialized landing gear — which also helps entry into this high-off-the-ground airplane — allows Jan to create a very steep angle of attack. "I already get off the surface in 44 feet," said Jan in a video interview you'll see later. He wants to do even better and to further shorten his landings. The super beefy gear arrangement will let him plop the aircraft on the ground in the shortest possible distance. "It's fun and a little whacky," said Sebastien Heintz of Zenith Aircraft while agreeing Monster STOL is a great draw at his Sun 'n Fun booth space. While I took photos people were constantly examining this unusual entry.
Come to Paradise!If you are at Sun 'n Fun, make your way to Paradise City and the LSA Mall each evening. You can enjoy very close up and exciting flying as pilots like Jan Eggenfellner and Steve Henry compete. For those that cannot attend, I saw lots of potential YouTube videos being recorded. Stay tuned! News from Sun 'n Fun 2022 continues…
At Sun ‘n Fun, as with AirVenture Oshkosh, recent years have created a new attraction using the Lightplane airstrip at both the nation’s two largest airshows. STOL — Short Takeoff and Landing — competitions have become a huge crowd draw. On pleasant evenings, crowds can be five deep all along the runway fence. STOL comps provide exciting close-up action. At few other airports can you observe so closely, literally 100 feet away from runway centerline. After the main afternoon airshow aerobatic acts conclude, you can do one of two things. You can go to the car park and wait in long lines to get out of the lot or you can make your way to the Ultralight Area / Lightplane Area / or Paradise City and catch the evening STOL comps. When they’re done competing, the car parks are moving better and you’ll waste less time sitting in line. STOL comps were planned every evening of Sun ‘n Fun but 20 mile per hour winds blowing 90° cross to the runway over a nearby line of tress was a bit much for many competitors.
Viking 180 Horse on Zenith Super DutyAt Sebring 2018 Zenith Aircraft showed their Super Duty version of their CH750 high wing, a STOL airplane equipped with a large engine and tires to match. Zenith's show example grosses at 1,900 pounds. Viking Aircraft Engines takes a Honda block and sets it up as an aircraft powerplant. Many homebuilders have installed them since the company reorganized in 2010. Their powerful engines have done well at STOL competitions at the Zenith factory, so principal Jan Eggenfellner decided to increase the tempo. The Florida company is promoting its 180 horsepower version today. To more dramatically show what their engine can do, Viking built their own Super Duty kit, painted it distinctively in red and flat black, and installed one of the big powerplants paired with giant Alaska tires. Even the nose wheel is a very large tire. "We're taking it from Florida to Alaska and will participate in the Valdez STOL competition," said Jan. "We are not going [expecting] to win but we want show what our engine can do." He and his staff have been planning the long trek that will begin mere weeks after Sun 'n Fun 2018 concludes.
Belite Aircraft Chipper STOLOn the other side of Sun 'n Fun 2018, Belite Aircraft main man James Weibe has concentrated his efforts on his latest Chipper side-by-side design. This configuration may be his most successful yet with a reported 19 kits in construction and another dozen in purchase process, according to James here in Lakeland, Florida. He has altered the wing to be all metal with a bonded adhesion that leaves the metallic upper surface as clean as a composite wing. Fat tundra tires fitted to the show example gave the taildragger a gutsy appeal. Chipper STOL is powered by an 80 horsepower Rotax 912 UL that has provided great performance for the lightweight machine (600 pounds empty). However, James has added components from Edge Performance of Norway (U.S. dealer) to boost power to 114 horsepower. Equipped with added power, a more efficient wing, and leading edge cuffs, Chipper may be able to give a run to aircraft in its class in the Alaska contests. Weibe will first return to Wichita, Kansas before setting out for Alaska. That cuts off a long leg but he will still have quite an adventure flying all the way to Anchorage and Valdez.
Alaska Airshows in MayThe events triggering the long distance migration by Viking and Chipper are the Alaska Airman show in May— held in the cavernous FedEx hangar plus outside displays — plus the Valdez STOL competition. Now in its 21st season for 2018, the Great Alaska Aviation Gathering is Alaska’s premier aviation event with nearly 300 exhibitors and 25,000 attendees. "Alaska is the 'flyingest' state in the union [and can boast] more pilots and aircraft per capita than anywhere in the world," say organizers. It will occur in 2018 on Saturday and Sunday, May 5th and 6th. One week later comes the Valdez Fly-In and Air Show, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, May 11th, 12th, and 13th. In the 2017 running of Valdez, approximately 200 airplanes flew in and more than 2,500 people attended the event on Pioneer Field in Valdez for the 14th Valdez Fly-In and Air Show. EAA spokesman Dick Knapinkski was quoted saying, "Alaska is the epicenter of STOL activity." I attended the Alaska Airmen's event some years ago to find the state southern regions emerged from winter. Days are long — I went out to go fly a trike on floats at 11 at night and flew for 45 minutes landing just before midnight with plenty of light to do so safely. Since transportation in the vast state is utterly dependent on aviation, a very high percentage of state residents are pilots and I have never seen so many aircraft on floats …or skiis if you're brave enough to stick around until fall when winter again arrives.
On a single day of recording several videos at Sun ‘n Fun 2018, Videoman Dave and I came across two light kit aircraft designs operating as STOL — Short Take Off and Landing — aircraft. By itself that is hardly unusual. STOL designs are plentiful and popular. However, when you hear that two STOL-focused airplanes will be flying from Florida to Alaska, that’s something else entirely. Flying from one corner of a big country to its diagonal opposite is a fairly significant undertaking. Depending on routes chosen, this is well beyond a 4,000-mile flight. Let’s see — at 80-90 mph an hour …well, suffice it to say, that’s a lot of flying, 40+ hours, each way, would not surprise me. Viking 180 Horse on Zenith Super Duty At Sebring 2018 Zenith Aircraft showed their Super Duty version of their CH750 high wing, a STOL airplane equipped with a large engine and tires to match.
Very Light to Very HeavyTalk about your short takeoff… I just witnessed the successful launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch, a test flight aiming to transport a Tesla Roadster to Mars. Because I live near Daytona Beach, Florida, I often get to observe rocket launches live. Sheesh! These two accomplishments could hardly be further apart and I don't mean geographically. The space geek in me is always drawn outside to my back yard to get a wonderful view of a launch. I've been privileged to see many, including all the final Space Shuttle launches. With my neighbors who live on the 12th fairway of the golf course at Spruce Creek Fly In, we stood on a pleasantly warm day to see this ground-breaking launch. While we could not see the return of all three rockets, they landed successfully, two on terra firma and one on SpaceX's barge at sea. Because we are about 50 miles away, the sound of these (count 'em) 27 rocket motors traveled to Daytona in about four minutes. The rumbling from those huge motors throbbed on and on, longer than any launch I can remember. The winds need to be rather calm for the sound to travel this far and today we got lucky. Cool! Go private space companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, and others. I'm a NASA fan, too, but I want to see these private enterprises take the baton and race outward to the planets …and it's happening. I just hope that Tesla can find a parking spot when it gets to Mars orbit. https://youtu.be/RSc__x0rO9k https://youtu.be/Tk338VXcb24
Sebastien Heintz of Zenith Aircraft in Mexico, Missouri is one of the more vigorous promoters in light aviation. He and his 25-year-old company are all over social media and advertise in big magazines. This week his news came from about as far away as possible, from way down under in New Zealand. “A Zenith STOL, expertly piloted by Deane Philip, was the winner of the New Zealand Bush Pilot Championships in Omaka, New Zealand, on Saturday, February 3, 2017,” reported Sebastien. Deane won with a take-off distance of just 12.6 meters (41.3 feet) and a landing roll of 14.7 meters (48.2 feet). See the video below. By any measure, that is very, very short. “Another Zenith STOL aircraft, piloted by Chris Anderson, took second place,” bragged Sebastien. In third place was a Rans S6 for third place in the Sport Pilot (under 1,325 pound) category. Deane’s STOL CH 701 is powered by a 130-horsepower Viking engine.