Gallatin, Tennessee, on September 1-2 hosted the inaugural Music City STOL Competition at Music City Executive Airport (KXNX). Known as the “Gateway to Middle Tennessee,” for its active aviation community and situated just minutes outside of Nashville at an elevation of 583 feet, Gallatin proved to be the perfect setting for a National STOL Series event.
The event, which drew an estimated crowd of 1,000, featured performances by seasoned pilots and enthusiastic newcomers, with YouTube personalities Ryan Dembroski of Super Aero and Brian Turner from Just Plane Silly, along with other notable figures, serving as announcers.
Touring Class: Brandon Corn Soars to Victory
In the Touring Class, Brandon Corn, the current class standings leader on the 2023 National STOL Series tour, achieved a remarkable personal best with a takeoff distance of 138 feet in his No. 30 1965 Cessna 205 Black Betty. Corn’s performance in the aircraft with a gross weight of 3,300 pounds secured his victory in the class with a combined distance of 323 feet.
Newcomer John McCardle took second place in his 1978 Maule M5-235C, while Jeff Abrams finished third in No. 65 Piperzilla, a 1965 Piper Cherokee 180C.
“Music City STOL was a great event—awesome crowd. The wind was in my favor, and everything just went right,” Corn said. “After that solid run, I knew we had them whooped. We will get her home and tuned up for the next event.”
Rookie Class: New Competitors Shine
The Rookie Class featured four new competitors. Justin Burkholder, an experienced pilot with 1,200 hours of flight time, shared his excitement about joining the competition. “I’ve got around 100 hours in the airplane,” Burkholder said.
Chase Bentley, flying a 1952 Cessna 170, emerged as the class winner with a takeoff distance of 468 feet. Daniel Donahue’s 1947 Stinson 108-1 secured second at 515 feet, and James Abbot was third in his 1958 Cessna 182B
Backcountry Class: Intense Competition Takes Center Stage
The Backcountry Class was the most competitive of the event, featuring a heated rivalry between the top competitors in the season standings. No. 99 Micah Lindstrom and No. 00 Jeff Pohl in the The Dirty Bird (the 2021 and 2022 National STOL Series Class Champion) battled it out against newcomer No. 52 Shawn Johnson in STOL Trooper—all piloting 1955 Cessna 170Bs. Lindstrom led after the first round, but Johnson’s performance in the second propelled him into the lead.
Despite a strong effort by Lindstrom, Johnson secured the victory with a second-round score of 244 feet. Wind gusts and shifts played a significant role in the outcome. Pohl expressed his frustration with his near miss: “I scratched by like 6 inches,” he said. “Otherwise, I think I might have had it.”
Johnson was left in disbelief upon learning he won the class. “No way! You’re joking. I didn’t expect that,” he said “I really thought I was the underdog coming into this event.” He had recently found his engine had three cracked cylinders and said the new powerplant contributed to the win.
Adventure Class: The American Legend Cubs Shined
In the Adventure Class, Keith Lange flew 47 hours in his No. 50 1956 Piper Cub Pepper from Wasilla, Alaska, to compete. The American Legend Cub MOACs battled it out, piloted by Brain Shirley (No 81) and Legend Cub Factory Luke Spoor (No. 71). Spoor dominated early as Shirley scratched in his first and fourth rounds.
The rising density altitude posed challenges, but Spoor emerged as the class winner with a combined distance of 183 feet, followed closely by Shirley and Lange.
Sport Class: Competition, Short Takeoffs
Rich Boardman, a seasoned STOL competitor, was present in his No. 94 CubCrafters Carbon Cub SS and created some exciting competition with Joel Milloway, who piloted his Rans S-7 Tiger Shark. Nick Ardillo, also flying a CubCrafters Carbon Cub SS, endured a challenging start, scratching in his first, second, and fourth rounds. Ardillo secured his only score for the event in the third round with a distance of 234 feet, which earned him third place.
Boardman and Milloway engaged in a neck-and-neck race, with Milloway securing the first two round victories. However, in a nail-biting fourth round, Boardman edged out Milloway to win the class by 2 feet with a combined take off and landing distance of 177 feet—the shortest of the event—and earning him the title of the Music City STOL grand champion.
Unlimited Class: McInteer Seizes the Opportunity
With the absence of the usual top-ranked Unlimited Class competitors, both Charles Lilly and Patrick McInteer were feeling encouraged to showcase their abilities. McInteer narrowly edged out Lilly for the victory.
“I couldn’t be happier with our first year hosting National STOL for the Music City STOL Competition,” said Chad Hall, Music City STOL host, president of EAA Chapter 1343, and co-founder of BOLDAviation. “Having them come to Gallatin is truly next level for us and hopefully the first of many events like this we hope to see at our field. I’m truly grateful to Tom Wolf, Eric Farwell, Karen Flanary, and the whole National STOL team for coming to Gallatin and for our amazing volunteers, local pilots, city and county officials, and everyone else who helped make this happen.”
The National STOL Series continues to see growth, with an increasing number of new faces competing in events across the country.