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Yee-Haw: Steve Henry takes a wild ride at Sun ’n Fun STOL Demo

Prominent STOL Champ unhurt, aircraft damage ‘minor’ after axle failure

Sun 'n Fun Stol Demo
Photo by Jeremy King.

The STOL demonstration pilots were working hard on Tuesday afternoon trying to put on a decent show in gusty conditions. The lightweight slow-flying aircraft and their pilots were getting tossed around but still managed to put several laps around the patch to show off some incredibly short takeoffs and landings. Things came to an abrupt end, luckily with no injuries and minimal damage to a crowd favorite airplane.

The demonstration, which takes place after the main airshow, provides a different sort of entertainment from “the big show.” Instead of being held hundreds of feet from the action, spectators get up close and personal in Paradise City as competitors work hard show the shortest takeoff and landing distances. Steve Henry, in his highly modified Just Aircraft Super STOL, is a steady top contender in both short takeoff and landing contests, and STOL Drags races. Henry is one of the early backcountry flying content creators on YouTube, whose “Dead Stick Takeoff, Flight and Landing” video put Just Aircraft’s designs in the spotlight more than a decade ago. 

STOL DEMO Sun 'n Fun
Photo by Jeremy King.

The left crosswind in the demonstration provided plenty of challenge for the pilots, with several airplanes banking right despite full aileron at liftoff. Prior to the demonstration, Henry removed the wingtip extensions, presumably to help better handle the gusty conditions. On his last approach, gusty conditions caused a mild sink, which he arrested and ballooned slightly with a gust, then came down firmly, at which point the left axle snapped, folding the tire under the airplane, and it went up on its nose and there it stayed.

Henry posted to Facebook late in the evening, explaining the failure point—an axle he had welded up, not a Just Aircraft, Beringe or Shock Monster component. It had survived years—and thousands of landings—before its failure yesterday. He said damage, on initial evaluation, was limited to the broken axle, a brake line, the propeller and one wing’s leading edge.

The show will go on this week, with more STOL demos in Paradise City following the daily show.

Enjoy more of Plane & Pilot’s Sun ’n Fun 2022 coverage here.

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