Anatomy of a STOL Aircraft

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2023-03-19 21:30:05

The world truly seems to be smaller today, thanks in large part to aviation. This has created a renewed interest in many of us to see what is around us, and not just to dash as quickly as possible to a new destination. While recreational aviation certainly has its share of high-performance (fast) aircraft, I think that what continues to draw most of us to flying is the shear excitement, enjoyment and freedom of being at the controls of our own aircraft. We want aircraft to give us the ability to fly cross-country, but we want to be able to see and visit the country we’re flying over.

The popularity of aircraft like the Piper Cub has endured and grown over the years, not only on account of nostalgia, but because these aircraft are just plain fun and easy to fly and provide good grass field capability (most classic aircraft were developed in a time when paved runways were rare). However, because of their age, many of these older designs do not offer modern improvements that most of us take for granted, such as electrical systems, side-by-side seating, all-metal construction, steerable nosewheel, etc. And of course, classic airplanes are becoming scarce and require significant maintenance just to keep them airworthy.

For most of us recreational pilots, we’re already where we want to be when we’re in the air, and we therefore get the most enjoyment from flying an airplane that’s easy and fun to fly, that provides good comfort and visibility, and that has low operating costs (who cares about miles per gallon – we want low hourly operating costs). When we do fly cross-country, the trip is as important (if not more) as arriving to the destination. A STOL (short take-off and landing) airplane gives us the ability to go to more places, especially in remote areas, where the world becomes your runway (this is an important safety feature too). With good payload, we have the ability to haul all the bags we want (camping equipment), or amphibious floats can give us the added capability and freedom to operate from water. Of course, a STOL airplane also allows us the opportunity to operate the aircraft out of our own "back yard." Just as sport utility vehicles (SUVs) have become very popular in the automotive world, many recreational pilots are also seeking maximum utility from their aircraft.

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