What do you get when you take a couple hundred outdoor enthusiasts/aviators, stick them on a dry lakebed in Nevada, roll out a new form of short takeoff and landing competition, and mix with a hearty helping of friendship and laughter? Not something you’d want to serve for breakfast, but the mixture was perfect for the latest edition of the High Sierra Fly-In, the brainchild of Kevin Quinn and friend. Our guess is that around this time of year, Quinn is the most popular guy in aviation because pilots who experienced HSF are still so grateful for the experience. Quinn, who runs helicopter skiing operations as a day job—yeah, we want to try that too—has managed the impossible with HSF, putting together a growing event, ensuring that it’s safe and keeping it true to its roots.
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The event, which ran for four days and wrapped on Sunday, this year featured an incredible variety of planes, everything from a Grumman Mallard to a Kitfox… okay, a few Kitfoxes. The signature event at HSF is a STOL-Drag Race contest that combines short field performance with flying skill and quick turn proficiency. These people don’t just wear plaid wool shirts and boots and hats. They really know how to fly.
Quinn, who’s a charter member of a cadre of rugged individualist aviators (with a big tire obsession) has created a community of pilots who mix their love of the outdoors, of big tire taildragger flying with fun and adventure. This year the weather was amazing, with blue skies, mostly light winds and record attendance. On his Facebook page, Quinn said that more than 400 airplanes showed up for the event and more than 1,000 people were there, as well.
The star of the show, no surprise, was Mike Patey’s Draco, a heavily modified Wilga with a turbine up front. It’s as close to VTOL as you’re ever going to get with a fixed-wing plane. Incredible. And, yes, super cool looking too. It took home top honors in the STOL Drag race.
The next High Sierra Fly-In is… well, it’ll be next fall. The organizers will let us know when they figure out exactly when. But even lacking those details, we’d advise you to start planning early, pick out appropriate boots, plaid, and dust masks. We’ve already got a few ideas ourselves. And, yes, we’re hoping Draco makes a return visit, too.
Click on the buttons below to see more photos from this year's event!