Video: Alaska shakes off winter

This year, Alaska shook off the winter in style. The Alaska Airmen’s Association held its 17th Great Alaska Aviation Gathering at the massive FedEx Maintenance Hangar at Anchorage International Airport on May 3-4. The clear blue skies and light breezes delivered thousands to the airport for the show.

Activity in the hangar and on the ramp remained brisk both Saturday and Sunday. Hundreds gathered on Sunday afternoon, hoping to hear their name called when the winning ticket for the Dan’s Aircraft Repair Super Cub was pulled. Congratulations to Mike Gibrey of Pleasanton, Calif., much to the chagrin of everyone pawing the plane.

AOPA President Mark Baker attended as did FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. Huerta was on point with a message about providing better weather forecasting tools for pilots nationwide.

Five days later, the bush flying world gathered in Valdez for the annual Valdez Fly-In and Airshow. More than 250 aircraft showed up for the popular fly-in. Weather, for the most part, cooperated. While the skies were clear in Valdez, high winds delayed Saturday’s popular STOL competition for more than hours.

To accommodate the delay, a pair of scheduled forums were given the green light to run long. EAA‘s Brady Lane and Henny Youngamen offered insight in the growing popularity of onboard airplane video filmmaking. Following Brady and Henny, five legendary Alaska aviators entertained and educated the standing-room only crowd. Paul Claus moderated the stories of Richard Wien, Vern Kingsford and brothers Cole and Kirk Ellis. In total, the five pilots have more than 100,000 Alaska flight hours in all types of aircraft and conditions.

For those who stuck around, their patience was paid off. All classes were able to compete and compete they did. The contest comprises each pilot taking off and landing, twice, in as short a distance as possible. The total distance (takeoff and landing) is totaled. The pilot with the shortest total is the winner.

STOL RESULTS (Name, City, Aircraft, Takeoff distance, Landing distance, Total distance)
Heavy Touring Class
1st. Michael Dietz, Big Lake, Helio Courier, 118’, 124’, 242’
2nd. Matt Conklin, Boise, Idaho, Cessna 180J, 143’, 121’, 264’
3rd. Nate Smith, Kenai, Cessna 180, 116’, 204’, 320’

Light Touring Class
1st. Shawn Holly, Soldotna, Cessna 170B, 104’, 115’, 219’
2nd. Ryan Kerby, Talkeetna, Maule M5-235, 137’, 190’, 327’
3rd. Eric Feige, Chickaloon, Cessna 172M, 172’, 172’, 344’

Bush Class
1st. Bobby Breeden, Sterling, Piper PA-18, 61’, 55’, 116’
2nd. Bob Breeden, Sterling, Piper PA-18, 66’, 53’, 119’
3rd. Paul Claus, Chitina, Piper PA-18, 72’, 95’, 167’

Alternate Bush Class
1st. Frank Knapp, Palmer, Frank Knapp Cub X, 41’, 35’, 76’
2nd. Josh Peppered, Anchorage, Wayne Mackey SQ12, 37’, 46’, 83’
3rd. Steve Henry, Nampa, Idaho, Just Aircraft Super STOL, 71’, 49’, 120′

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