Those daring men in their magnificent flying machines! The brave Canadian bush pilots, the South American jungle pilots and the freight pilots operating in crisis zones in Africa. They land and take off in extreme conditions in the world’s most remote and hostile areas.
These pilots have a special skill, a special attitude… and a special airplane. In particular, Short Takeoff and Landing (STOL) aircraft that can takeoff and land in less than 200 feet (60 metres) … and down to as little as 30 feet (9 metres)! That’s as little as 10 strides. Basically, takeoff and land in the length of your driveway.
STOL and XSTOL
There are a fair number of STOL capable aircraft. After all, you need STOL aircraft to land on an aircraft carrier. Huge aircraft such as the Boeing C-17 Globemaster have STOL capabilities. Some waterbombers are also required to be STOL capable.
The granddaddy of STOL is the Fieseler Fi 156 Storch, a German reconnaissance aircraft introduced in 1936. The “modern” and equally legendary equivalent is the light utility Piper PA-18 Super Cub, launched in 1949. More than 15,000 Super Cubs were built in various models format, including floatplanes, until production ended in 1994.
The standard Piper PA-18 Super Cub requires 400 ft (120m) distance for safe landing and 200 ft (60m) for takeoff. (Landing/takeoff over a 50 ft obstacle is 800 ft (244m) and 500 ft (162m).) To achieve extreme short takeoff and landing distances, they are equipped with STOL kits that basically include changes to the wing design, strengthened carriage chassis and some engine changes.
The aircraft favored for STOL record attempts, the venerable Piper PA-18 Super Cub.
This is a standard model – XSTOL versions have modified wings and carriages.
But there’s STOL and then there’s XSTOL – Extreme Short Takeoff and Landing. The latter are those amazing machines that can takeoff and land in a very, very short distance.
In 2007, Paul Claus took off in a light-sport Carbon Cub, which is based on the Piper Super Cub, in a mere 19 ft (5,8m)!
Watch Bobby Breeden doing a STOL in a Super Cub –
If you’ve been thinking, “Are these guys competing for the shortest STOL ever?” you are right. Every year, bush pilots test their skills in the annual Valdez STOL competition, called the Valdez May Day Fly-In.
STOL and XSTOL aircraft
A STOL aircraft is called a “Sky Jeep” because of its (almost) go-anywhere capabilities. These include the mentioned large-body aircraft and, notably, the P-750 XSTOL which requires only 800 ft (244m) for takeoff and landing – quite remarkable for a 10-seater.
With a STOL kit, the world’s best-selling aircraft, the Cessna 172 Skyhawk – over 43,000 units sold – is also capable of taking off within 800 ft (244m).
Extreme STOL aircraft:
* The Piper PA-18 Super Cub, particularly the Mackey SQ2 variant.
* The STOL CH range of kit aircrafts made by Zenith Aircraft Company from Mexico, Missouri.
* The Pipstrel Sinus ultralight motorglider, the first light aircraft to fly around the world (2004).
* The impressive Aviat Husky.
In fact, there are a number of contenders – see Wikipedia’s List of STOL aircraft.
There are a few things you’ll notice from all these little miracle machines:
1) they all have top fixed wings,
2) they’re powered by either Rotax or Lycoming engines;
3) aircraft length typically around 33 ft (10 m);
4) wingspan less than 50 ft (15m)
Aircraft carrier STOL
Airport runways are between 6,000 and 10,00o feet (1,8/3km) but the landing strip on an aircraft carrier is less than 500 feet (152m). That would be no problem at all for Dutch pilot Jaap Rademaker – he required less than 20 ft to land his Ukranian Aeroprakt A-22 Valor (aka Foxbat) lightsport aircraft on the deck of a freight ship, the Global Seatrade Hartman M2 Runner.
The Aeroprakt A-22 Valor (Foxbat) is classified as a microlight by the World Air Sports Federation (The FIA, Fédération Aéronautique Internationale).
The designer of the Fieseler Fi 156 Storch, Gerhard Fieseler (4/15/1896 – 11/1/1987) was one of first to try to develop drones.
What about helicopters?!
The Hawker Harrier, Boeing X-32, F35-lightning and tilt-wing or tilt-rotor aircraft and helicopters are indeed STOL aircraft but are classified as VSTOL – Vertical Takeoff and Landing.