Competitive aviators back in the skies in Wayne, NE

Published: May. 26, 2023 at 5:27 PM CDT
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WAYNE, Neb. (KTIV) - A new year and a new name for a big aviation event in Wayne, Nebraska this weekend.

The community is holding its Wayne America Fly-In this weekend. They are also remembering the life of pilot Tom Dafoe of California who died last year at the event.

The event is packed this year, showcasing the largest numbers since it first started. Some 50 aviators are taking to the skies from the airport’s grass runway. Because of its central location and amenities, Wayne Nebraska is now a hot spot for the sport.

”Yeah so this actually is the largest STOL event ever for (the) National STOL Series. We crushed their record (which) was set in their first inaugural event in Texas... and we beat it in Wayne, Nebraska,” said Colin Caneva, one of the co-founders of the event.

Not only can the pilots of Wayne America stop on a dime, but they can also do it from their airplanes. It’s called STOL Racing: short takeoff and landing.

Whoever can get their plane in the air using the least amount of runway, and then land doing the same, wins.

“It’s paint a line on the ground, land on or beyond the line and come to a stop as quickly as you can. It’s a measured distance, and you do a take-off as well,” said Pilot Kyle Bushman.

Bushman, who visited the Wayne America Fly-In from Oregon, says the sport has gained so much popularity. His day job is now mostly retrofitting the bush planes that compete in competitions like this.

“When I say I can land, (when) I look on the field and say I can land there. In an emergency I can land there, we also land there for fun,” said Ardillo.

If your feet are firmly planted on the ground but you’d like to get into aviation everyone we spoke with today said coming to the Wayne America Fly-In would be a great chance to get yourself acquainted with the skies.

Just ask Nick Ardillo, a pilot from Texas who has less than 200 flight hours in his tail-dragging plane.

“These oversize tires really help that you know, so it doesn’t have to be an approved (landing) strip. (You can) land off airport (on) gravel, roads, dirt roads, gravel bars and rivers,” said Ardillo.

Events continue Friday until 9:30 p.m., and then again on tomorrow from 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. You can catch all the action live in-person at the Wayne Municipal Airport.