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STOL the show!

Jaden Newman with her ArkanSTOL hat, a badge of honor only awarded to ArkanSTOL pilots. Photo courtesy of Tanya Newman.

Taking place at Byrd’s Adventure Center, the event was unlike any other STOL competition. Pilots were tested on their skills and judgment while dealing with extreme terrain and challenges, including unpredictable river valley winds. Despite the challenge, Newman gave the competitors a run for their money—finishing second in the light sport category just half a second behind winner Steve Henry with a time of 2:38.7 minutes.

One of 26 competitors, Newman put on an impressive performance in her 2009 Super Sport Cub, though she admitted she had no expectations of doing so well. With just 300 hours of flight time, it’s clear she’s made a real name for herself.

AOPA caught up with Newman to talk about the ArkanSTOL competition and her experiences flying as a young competitor.

What got you into flying?

I went up with my mom and dad on a test flight with an instructor and I really enjoyed the experience.

What aircraft do you fly?

I fly a 2009 CubCrafters [Carbon Cub SS], I also fly a Cessna 172 and a Sling 2, I have flown an American Champion Scout and a TBM 850.

How much flight time do you have?

A little over 300 total time—about 150 in the Cub, 70 in the Cessna, 80 in the Sling and just a few in the Scout and TBM 850.

Jaden Newman and family on earning her private pilot certificate. Photo courtesy of Tanya Newman.

Was the ArkanSTOL event your first time competing?

Yes and it was the time of my life!!!!

What do you enjoy most about flying?

The freedom it gives me and overcoming the challenge to land at new spots.

Do you have any aviation role models?

Mike Patey, Steve Henry, Trent Palmer, Jonas Marcinko, Kevin Quinn, Cory Robin, my flight instructor—Dennis Duggan and my dad! I also met a new one at ArkanSTOL—my new mentor and someone I look up to—Joe Edwards.

How much experience did you have with backcountry flying prior to the ArkanSTOL competition?

After I received my tailwheel endorsement on February 22, 2020, I would fly low-and-slow almost every evening after school in the adobe hills next to Montrose, Colorado. I also spent a lot of my flying time exploring new landing spots in Moab, Utah, and around the Uncompahgre Plateau.

Do you want to continue flying as a career or as a hobby?

I would like to continue making flying a career and a hobby!

Jaden Newman over Torrance, California, in a Sling 2. Photo courtesy of Tanya Newman.

Where do you see yourself in the future?

Flying in a Carbon Cub as a backcountry flight instructor, a corporate pilot or a crop duster. I would also like to train young kids in aviation.

What has been the most challenging part of flying for you?

Trying to find the time to pull myself out of the airplane to study for all the written exams.

What’s the best flying tip anyone has given you?

I can’t think of just one, but here are a few of them: Learn what the airplane is going to do before it does it. Feel the airplane and become one with it. A good pilot is a smooth pilot. Never quit flying the airplane.

Do you have any interest in aerobatics/air racing or anything similar?

Yes! STOL competitions, aerobatics and air racing are all on my list of things to accomplish and be proficient at.

Is the Cub your ideal plane to compete in, or is there another aircraft you’d love to fly?

Yes, for STOL competitions I love flying the Cub. I would also love to fly an F–16 or an FA–18. If I could fly aerobatics, I would love to fly an [MX Aircraft] MX2.

How does it feel to beat out some seasoned pros as a young competitor?

It came as a shock! When I first arrived, I was just happy to have the opportunity to try and qualify. After I qualified, I was honored to participate in the [event]. I had [no] expectations to do so well.

Is there anything you’ve learned about yourself along the way?

I have learned to always know there is more to learn and listen to those who want to share their knowledge and experience.

I would also like to give a huge Thanks to those who supported me before, during and after the event. So many spectators (Mary Deatrick, Greg Simmons, Warren Grob, Jay Stanford and Chuck Kinberger), other participants (Rob Brady, Levi Noguess, Steve Henry and Steve Pierce and Dale Mitchell), news crews, event volunteers (Rob and Andrea Hill) and event coordinators (John Young, Rusty Coonfield, and Joe Edwards). I made so many new friends that I now call family. I would also like to thank my sponsor: Acme Aero (Matt Mcswain and Eric Robinson) who believed in me. Also my mom, dad, brother (Dustin, who is in the Air Force stationed in Anchorage, Alaska!) and family who have been there throughout this whole process.

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