Daredevil pilots head for sandy beach in Belgium

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WEVELGEM, Belgium (Reuters) - Daredevil pilots will head for the Belgian coast in June to take part in the first ever short take-off and landing (STOL) aeroplane competition on sand.

Competitors will try to take off and land their vintage aircraft at a beach near the Belgian resort town of Knokke-Heist in the shortest possible distance. The two distances are added up to determine the winner.

“Aeroplanes landing on beaches has been done and STOL competitions have existed almost since the aeroplane has existed itself, all we are doing is put the two together,” said Sam Rutherford, the organizer of the event.

While passenger jets usually need more than a mile of runway to land, some of the lighter planes in STOL competitions have done so in less than 20 feet (six meters).

Pilots taking part in the event in Belgium said they were curious to find out what impact the sand would have on the competition.

“If you’re landing and the wheels get stuck in the sand you may flip the aircraft on its nose,” said pilot Harold Denolf.

The event will take place over several days from June 14.

Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; editing by Andrew Roche