A short takeoff and landing (STOL) aircraft is an aircraft with short runway requirements for takeoff and landing.
A list of STOL capable aircraft may be found here.
Many fixed-wing STOL aircraft are bush planes, though some, like the De Havilland Canada Dash-7, are designed for use on prepared airstrips; likewise, many STOL aircraft are taildraggers, though there are exceptions like the PAC P-750 XSTOL, Quest Kodiak, de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter and the Peterson 260SE. Autogyros also have STOL capability, needing a short ground roll to get airborne, but capable of a near-zero ground roll when landing.
Runway length requirement is a function of the square of the minimum flying speed (stall speed), and most design effort is spent on reducing this number. For takeoff, large power/weight ratios and low drag help the plane to accelerate for flight. The landing run is minimized by strong brakes, low landing speed, thrust reversers or spoilers (less common). Overall STOL performance is set by the length of runway needed to land or take off, whichever is longer.
Of equal importance to short ground run is the ability to clear obstacles, such as hills, on both take off and landing. For takeoff, large power/weight ratios and low drag result in a high rate of climb required to clear obstacles. For landing, high drag allows the aeroplane to descend steeply to the runway without building excess speed resulting in a longer ground run. Drag is increased by use of flaps (devices on the wings) and by a forward slip (causing the aeroplane to fly somewhat sideways through the air to increase drag).
Normally, a STOL aircraft will have a large wing for its weight. These wings often use aerodynamic devices like flaps, slots, slats, and vortex generators. Typically, designing an aircraft for excellent STOL performance reduces maximum speed, but does not reduce payload lifting ability. The payload is critical, because many small, isolated communities rely on STOL aircraft as their only transportation link to the outside world for passengers or cargo; examples include many communities in the Canadian north and Alaska.
Most STOL aircraft can land either on- or off-airport. Typical off-airport landing areas include snow or ice (using skis), fields or gravel riverbanks (often using special fat, low-pressure tundra tires), and water (using floats): these areas are often extremely short and obstructed by tall trees or hills. Wheel skis and amphibious floats combine wheels with skis or floats, allowing the choice of landing on snow/water or a prepared runway.
Backcountry Avaiation shares a series on STOL techniques and tips:
Here are some good free X-Plane STOL planes:
Rans S7 Courier:
Piper J-3 Cub:
Piper PA-18 Super Cub: