Badlands Vaquero Debuts at Reno Air Races

Badlands partner and fabricator Levi Glines with his Vaquero at Reno Air Races.

Short take off and landing (STOL) competitions are storming the country as the most popular new events at air races, flyins and air shows. The first STOL competitions would simply measure the distances taken for takeoff and landing, add them together and the pilot with the lowest number wins. At Reno, they have STOL Drag Races in which two contestants line up abreast on a runway, take off, fly 2000 feet down the runway, land, come to a full stop, pivot 180 degrees, takeoff to the opposite end of the runway (where they began) and land, coming to a full stop beyond the line from which they originally took off. The first one to stop wins. The crowds go wild.

The first STOL racers came from several sources. Cessna 170s and 180s, with barn door flaps and hopped-up engines have been competing since the beginning. However, the homebuilt community has supplied the vast majority of competitors. Highly modified Kitfoxes, Chinooks and Carbon Cubs have been wildly successful at competitions across the country. New iterations of homebuilt competitors have been popping up in the STOL community. Enter the Badlands Vaquero.

Small but powerful 160 hp Rotax 916 iS.

The Badlands STOL shop, located in Hot Springs, South Dakota, first produced the Badlands Traveller, a STOL recreational vehicle, which is now flying. Not wasting any time, Badlands has pivoted to producing a STOL racer, the Badlands Vaquero, which they are debuting (in construction) at the Reno Air Races. All that exists at this point is a fully welded fuselage with a Rotax 916 iS (160 hp) perched on the firewall. However, the big story is the monster landing gear underneath the fuse. The Badlands engineers designed the Vaquero’s central pivot gear to send a clear message, “We are STOL racing with this ship!” So much of STOL racing depends on a secure planting and arresting of the racer at the end of the flight. This gear is designed to make that happen.

The landing gear sends a message: “We are going STOL racing!”

The Vaquero is a two-place tandem design with dimensions that closely follow the Piper Cub (the grandfather of STOL). The wings will be innovative, utilizing a single strut, an aluminum spar, foam composite ribs and an aluminum skin. Control surfaces (ailerons, elevators and the rudder) will be constructed with aluminum spars and composite ribs covered with fabric. The airfoil design is based on a Cessna 150-172 that is available with a Sportsman STOL kit. In the power barn, the Vaquero will feature Rotax’s new 916 iS, a 160 horsepower turbocharged water-cooled engine.

The first Vaquero (the very one displayed at Reno) is destined for STOL drag racer Hal Stockman, who will campaign it in next year’s competitions.

Badlands projects that their quick build kits, with fully welded fuselages and landing gear, and cowlings, will sell in the $50,000 range. For more information, visit


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