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Tragedy halts Nebraska STOL event

A Cessna 140 flown by California pilot Tom Dafoe was taking part in a traditional short takeoff and landing heat on the second day of the MayDay STOL 2022 at Wayne Municipal/Stan Morris Field in Wayne, Nebraska. The event had been planned to include four days of precision aviation competition.

Winds were too strong on May 20 to run the STOL Drag heats, a hybrid test of speed precision measured by a combination of timing and combined takeoff and landing distance, so Dafoe and other pilots took part in pickup heats of traditional STOL competition, where combined takeoff and landing distance is all that is measured, that was not originally on the schedule. California pilot Tom Dafoe prepares to launch his 1946 Cessna 140 during the MayDay STOL event May 20. Dafoe died in an apparent stall-spin accident minutes later. Photo by David Tulis.

During the fourth heat, Dafoe’s Cessna rolled and dove out of a turn from base to final, striking the ground in front of shocked spectators.

AOPA, among the event’s sponsors, learned additional details from staff on location and other witnesses and organizers at the event, including that by some estimates, the accident sequence began about 400 feet above the ground, an altitude at which recovery would have been impossible.

The emergency response was immediate, and all other activity on the airfield stopped in the moments following the accident at around 6:50 p.m. local time. 

As people on the field gathered in small groups for prayer and comfort, organizers posted an alert on the event website 23 minutes later:

“Due to an onsite incident at KLCG, Wayne Municipal Airport, all events have been canceled. More information will follow.”

Spectators and event staff were devastated after watching a fatal crash May 20 during the second day of a planned four-day MayDay STOL event. Photo by David Tulis.

AOPA President Mark Baker pledged the association will provide any and all possible assistance to Dafoe’s family, and to others affected by the tragedy.

“We are heartbroken that we lost a member of the general aviation community, and our thoughts are with the family and friends of the pilot,” Baker said. “Law enforcement and NTSB officials are handling the on-scene investigation. We will continue to support the community as needed.”

Eyewitnesses were shocked and speechless following the May 20 crash. All activity on the airfield stopped, other than the rescue effort. Photo by David Tulis.

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