Roadtrippin’ 2023: Air eye candy in Valdez
VALDEZ, Alaska (KTUU) - The Valdez Fly-In and STOL competition is this weekend in Valdez. It’s a premiere aviation event where you can watch the best of the best pilots twist and turn surrounded by a mountain amphitheater.
Saturday afternoon, four-time U.S. Unlimited Aerobatic team member and airshow show display pilot Melissa Burns wowed a crowd of hundreds. Burns says events like this are a way to recruit young people to become pilots.
According to the Department of Transportation, bush pilots are vital to the economy and Alaskan way of life. DOT reports that 82% of Alaska communities depend on aviation for year-round access, there are six times as many pilots, per capital, and 16 times as many aircraft.
“Without our airports, the Alaskan way of life simply would not be possible. 402 Alaskan communities depend on aviation for year-round access, where aircraft often take the place of cars, school buses, semi-trucks and ambulances,” DOT’s website reads.
Once some low-hanging clouds cleared, the show got underway with airplane aficionados taking pictures and gazing at the specialized planes.
“I started flying when I was in high school over 30 years ago,” Valley pilot Stef Goza said. “I just love the freedom that it gives me and I love everything live, eat, sleep, breathe, aviation.”
Super Cubs and Cessnas painted in bright orange and green lined the runway at the airport in Valdez. A Carbon Cub FX3 carried a design of a dog on its doors. Pilots stopped to chat and exchange ideas about airplane designs.
“There’s legends in the flying community walking around here,” Anchorage pilot Dan Reynolds said.
When asked about the history of bush planes in the state, pilot-in-training Erin Martin described flying in Alaska as ‘romantic.’
“I just love it when you go up you just get a different perspective, just literally and figuratively,” Martin said. “It’s just great.”
The air show continues on Sunday. Pilot Scott Sexton starts the day at 9:45 a.m. with an acrobatic routine. Start and finish times are able to change depending on the weather.
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