ONTARIO — The Ontario Municipal Airport is a fixture in the local community and has been the site of some major changes over the past year, including bringing on a Erik Hartley as the new manager.
Hartley, whose experience with aircraft goes back to his days in the United States Air Force and after as an airport consultant.
His plans for the airport include some brand new innovations that area residents have not seen before including an event called STOL drag racing, which will include training and qualifications and which is slated for Sept. 29-Oct. 2.
This type of competition is something that Hartley hopes will bring spectators of all ages to the field to check it out.
STOL drag racing
And what is STOL drag racing?
STOL is an acronym for “short take off / landing” and events using aircraft in this way for drag racing, hovering just a few feet from the ground and racing to the end of a sanctioned track, circling around and racing back to the starting line.
Hartley said that this event will use the airport’s new grass strip will serve as the drag race strip. He said that there will need to be “some modifications” but that the land is in the process of being prepared.
This attraction is important as it is a first not only locally, but regionally as well, Hartley said that this is important because it’s “vital to have a Northwest region race.”
An event like this would also allow for vendors “who sell this kinda stuff” to set up booths and “bring a trade show to Ontario.”
Hartley elaborated and said that it “makes sense” to have vendors at the event that sell the type of products that are used for aircraft or associated with aviation.
“Make it a mix between an airshow, a trade show and a race,” he said.
Hartley explained that as staff have reached out to businesses for possible sponsorship, many of those businesses have “jumped” at the opportunity to take part.
“As we wind our way through the pandemic, a little carrot of normalcy that’s what we’re trying to offer the local community,” said Hartley.
He said that he anticipates that lodging options like local hotels will book quickly as a result of this event.
Go national and grow
Plans to make Ontario Municipal Airport the Northwestern site of STOL drag racing are in the works, according to Hartley.
“We’ve seen folks already reaching out from as far as Arizona and it’s been about a week and a half or so since it’s been made official,” said Hartley.
He said as far as STOL drag racing needing representative across the nation, it is “vital to have a Northwest region race.”
Hartley, who said that he has advocated for an event like this for “a long time” has many ideas pertaining to promotion including a “swag bag” for participants.
“The pilot takes Ontario back with them,” he said.
Hartley gave a tentative layout of the arrangement of what the event will look like. He said crowd seating will be in a line facing the track with vendors and a pit row just behind the spectators.
He anticipates this event will grow and possibly start receiving live sports coverage in the future.
Hartley said the official name of the grass strip which will be used is the “Cash Troyer Memorial Grass Field.”
“A cultural change is upon us in the valley,” he said.
He said the tentative plan for the second year of STOL drag racing at the airport is set to pair with the annual air show that showcases planes of all types. In years past, military aircraft have been featured at the show, allowing visitors to get an up-close look at these vehicles. Cars and other terrestrial modes of transport have also been featured at shows past. The visual spectacles have drawn spectators from all over to take in the sights.