Crystal Airport Celebrates Turf Runway
A first of its kind event happened at Crystal Airport this past weekend – CrySTOL. Area pilots put on a demonstration of a special kind of flying. While most planes take up a lot of runway for takeoffs and landings, these pilots don’t have to. A combination of airplane design and piloting skills lets them take off and land in very short distances.
It’s called STOL, for Short Take Off and Landing.
And Saturday’s CrySTOL demonstration event was a celebration of sorts. STOL works best on runways that aren’t paved. The Crystal Airport has a grass runway which it came close to losing when the Metropolitan Airports Commission called for dismantling it in a comprehensive plan. But pilots rallied. Crystal’s turf strip is the only public one in the area, and pilots see its preservation as important.
Is Your Airplane a Tricycle or Taildragger?
In the world of airplanes, there are two main configurations of landing gear. One is tricycle, and it’s what most planes you’ve seen have. A tricycle gear plane has two (or more) main wheels near the center of the plane, and one up front. The other type of gear is called conventional, or taildragger. Conventional gear planes have two main wheels up front, with a third wheel under the tail.
Taildraggers do better on soft-surface runways like the grass strip at Crystal. When pilots advocated for keeping the runway, MAC heard them, and changed the plan.
Grass Strips Disappearing
“Being able to save it is really a great asset for the reliever airports in Minneapolis / St. Paul,” said CrySTOL organizer Warren Batzlaff. “It’s an important thing for all the historical aircraft.” Batzlaff decided that asset was worth celebrating. He suggested an event to highlight the grass strip.
When airport manager Phil Tiedeman heard the suggestion, he had only one question. “How do we make this happen?” As Tiedeman and several other score-keeping volunteers watched, pilots of four airplanes held a mock competition on the runway, trying to see who could take off and land in the shortest distance. The answer, as it happened, was organizer Batzlaff – at least for takeoff, which his Aviat Husky did in just under 250 feet. Jeremy Vecoli in his Piper J-3 Cub had the shortest landing at 250 feet.
Tiedeman said he doesn’t think an event like this was ever held at Crystal before. But he’s hoping it won’t be the last. “Hopefully have another good weather weekend next year that we can do this event all over again.”
To learn more about the Crystal Airport, click here.