Hendersonville Standard

Pilots show takeoff, landing skills in Gallatin competition

Gallatin native James Abbott prepares to take off in his 1959 Cessna 182B during the Music City STOL competition at Music City Executive Airport on Sept. 2. RICK MURRAY

Under azure blue skies with unlimited visibility, dozens of daring pilots took to the air to compete in the 2023 Music City STOL Competition on Sept. 2.

Over 1,200 aviation fans of all ages attended the event, which was held at Music City Executive Airport in Gallatin.

The competition was held as part of the 2023 National STOL Series, which features events around the country that pit aviators and their planes against one another to see who has the best short takeoff and landing (STOL) skills.

Unlike commercial aircraft, which require between 6,000 to 12,000 feet of runway for takeoffs and 4,500 to 6,000 feet for landings, STOL pilots need only a small fraction of the usual distances.

Competitors are rated based on a point system, which rewards pilots achieving the shortest takeoffs and landings with the highest scores. Competition scores are cumulative, and competitors receive their final rankings at the end of each calendar year.

The National STOL Series typically hosts approximately 10 events each year held at sites around the country, with participants vying for prizes including cash, merchandise and trophies. The Gallatin contest was the seventh event in 2023, and the first one ever held in Tennessee.

“Having the event in Gallatin is very special to me because it was here where I took my first ride in an airplane when I was 10 years old,” said Take One Film & Video CEO Chad Hall, who served as the local event coordinator. “From that moment on, I knew that I wanted to be an aviator.”

The pilots and their support crews arrived two days before the competition for their official check-ins, and they spent most of the next day flying practice runs. Most of the participants camped out at the airport during their stay, choosing to spend their nights in a small village of RVs parked adjacent to the airport hangars.

Competitors came from all across the country, including one from Alaska. Sumner County was also well represented, with two pilots from Gallatin – Anthony Lee and James Abbott.

All flight activity occurred on a measured grass strip which spanned a gap between the airport hangars and the runway, which remained open for service throughout the day. National STOL Series officials and a team of volunteers staffed the flightline in order to mark competitor takeoff and landing points and to watch for any rule violations.

As typical in most STOL events, pilots were placed into different competitive groups based upon their aircraft classifications. This year’s groupings consisted of Touring, Backcountry, Adventure, Sport, Unlimited and Rookie.

The individual class winners included Brandon Corn of Hearne, Texas (Touring – 1963 Cessna 205); Shawn Johnson of Stamping Ground, Ky. (Backcountry – 1955 Cessna 170B); Luke Spoor of Sulphur Spring, Texas (Adventure – 2019 Super Legend); Rick Boardman of Henderson, Nev. (Sport – 2015 CubCrafters SS); Patrick McInteer of Lincoln, Neb. (Unlimited – 2006 Rans S-7); and Chase Bentley of Dry Ridge, Ky. (Rookie – 1952 Cessna 170.)

Numerous private and commercial aircraft were also on display, providing aviation enthusiasts with multiple photo opportunities. Many local pilots were also on hand to answer questions and to share their flight experience and knowledge with visitors. “My purpose for holding an event like this one is so that we can inspire the next generation of aviators right here in our hometown,” Hall said. “I look forward to doing it again someday soon.”