Featured Trip Reports

Winds of Texas

Welcome to the Texas hill country, home to a thriving "brush" pilot community, and the new Texas STOL Round Up annual shortfield competition. This month's Featured Trip Report comes to you in video form, so please enable full screen and enjoy.


It's hard to not include some written narrative in a feature like this, so in lieu of a more in-depth writeup, I took the easy way out. What follows is pretty much the narration of the video, hence the concise delivery!

This last Spring I made it down to Texas to attend the first annual Texas STOL Roundup, a fly-in and competition organized by my friend Phil Whittemore. Now, prior to this I only knew Phil as "Barnstormer" from the forum, but he was kind enough to offer to put me up at his home for a few nights, and I can't say enough good things about him. He really loves flying and his enthusiasm is infectious.

Thursday afternoon Phil picked me up at Austin International in his Skywagon, and after sampling the local taco truck action, we headed out to his home base at Spicewood airport, which was experiencing uncharacteristically calm winds, and an amazing Blue bonnet explosion. Blue bonnets are these beautiful little wildflowers that, viewed individually, kinda look like weeds. But in a giant patch of them, they create blankets of blue in stark contrast to the drier landscape of the hill country.

Phil's Mackey SQ-2 in a patch of blue bonnets at his home field of Spicewood, TX.

Phil is living the pilot's dream in that he has two airplanes, and in this case they're both bushplanes, one for going fast and one for going slow. He'd just ferried his new Mackey SQ-2 down from Alaska and was having way too much fun practicing for Saturday's competition. It was time for him to gear up though and head to Llano a day early to prep the fly-in.

While Phil flew the wagon down to Llano, I drove his truck the 70 miles south with all my video gear and some supplies for the fly-in. No sooner had I arrived when I met Luke, AKA Skalywag from Presidio county. Meeting interesting personalities from the website is one of my favorite things about being in this position, and Luke was just plain cool. We decided to go explore some of the sidecountry spots and shoot some footage of his '59 Skylane tailwheel conversion.

After bouncing around the hot afternoon Texas skies (try looking through a camera the entire time-- I did get queasy), the waterfall felt like some Shangri-La, a temporary paradise only landable during the drier months, as the strip is normally flooded by the Colorado river. Fish were jumping just 50 feet off the bank, birds were thermaling, and honestly I would have rather spent the night here than my hotel room.

The yellow Super Cub stands out against the grey morning at Llano I've always been a fan of the 8GCBC, shame I didn't end up with footage of this one.

The next morning brought with it all the excitement and nerves of a competition, kind of reminding me of my days racing motorcycles. And I wasn't even flying. There was a pilot meeting to go over the procedures and the rules. The format was slightly different as there were 2 different thresholds for takeoffs and landings, with judges positioned at each. Classes were similar to those Valdez, with Bush, Light Touring, Heavy Touring, Alternate/Experimental Bush, and today would kick off with the Light Sport. Unfortunately, in this particular video, I only caught a single LSA run: The CubCrafters Carbon Cub, which had the shortest performance of the entire day.

A host of great volunteers made the competition a smooth show.

The great winds of Texas! They didn't stop the entire time I was there. My trip was filled with good airplanes, great people, and some fun flying. Thanks to everyone for a great experience, and we'll see you all again at Llano next year.

A Maule on steep final to the displaced threshold of the landing line.

Zane Jacobson

Zane Jacobson is the founder/editor of Backcountry Pilot and currently flies a variety of rental aircraft around his home area of Portland, Oregon while continuing construction of his Bearhawk.

Website: https://backcountrypilot.org

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