View Full Version : Tail dragger - am I legal?

14th Nov 2001, 20:58
Hello people. I need a few questions answered if thats ok.

I have my ppl with a few hours on the C-150. What would it take for me to fly the Piper Cub or any other tail dragger, is there a compulsory course one has to take or is it legal to "jump in and fly" (not that I would).

Oh, and if such course exsists how much does it cost and what is involved (I know tail dragger conversions courses exsist, I just really need to know if they're manadatory).

Any thoughts much appreciated.


14th Nov 2001, 21:59
Here in the US, it is an additional rating. Much like Complex, High Performance, Twin, Seaplane etc.

Without looking in the FAR, I am sure you are not certified to fly unless you have the applicable endorsement. Certainly no-one renting the a/c would let you lose without the endorsement, or a checkout.

14th Nov 2001, 23:15

You'd be nuts to jump in and fly a taildragger if you only had time in a C150, but you know that. AFAIK in the UK its legal to do so, not sure whether JAA has changed that. I think JAA has moved towards the US in that complex, high performance & tailwheel endorsements are now needed. Having said that I still don't have a clue what is going on with JAA.

I'd expect around 10 hours of instruction to become comfortable with the beast. They are not like the nosewheel planes, taildraggers are incredibly feisty on the ground and can get away from you. Only yesterday a mate of mine with around 200 hours in a supercub went off road and took out a runway light. Even more experienced pilots than that can easily end up in the gravel.

You might now find that insurance requirements are more strict than experience requirements, I know several places (in the US) which require 25 hours tailwheel time before they will let you take one out.

Ooops, forgot to say what's involved.

Well, for a start you have to learn how to taxi properly and make sure the control surfaces are all pointing in the right direction.

Then you have to learn how to take off properly, control surfaces pointing in the right direction.

Then you have to learn what the rudder is for, plenty of dutch rolls to get used to coordinated flight.

Then you have to learn how to land properly. You cannot come in at an angle and expect the wheels to straighten you out when you hit the runway like in a nosewheel.

You should start with 3 point landings. Proper full stall landings. Then wheel landings if you have a cross wind, remember to keep the control surfaces pointing in the right direction. Three point take offs, short field landings and take offs. These things will stop on a sixpence.

Then you get to taxi at high speed on the runway, one wheel on the ground, use of rudder to keep the nose pointing in the right direction.

Keep practicing these until they come naturally and you don't get your butt kicked all the time.

Basically, you learn how to fly a real airplane, not one of these pussy spam cans :)

Once you do learn to master the taildragger, you will not want to fly those spam can nosewheels again.

[ 14 November 2001: Message edited by: slim_slag ]

14th Nov 2001, 23:16
re: taildragging
as above not sure about the legal requirments but it is very unlikely a club will let you lose without doing a five hour conversion definatley well worth doing and great fun. can highly recommend old sarum for doing it though as they have cubs, a citabria and my favourite the 152 texas taildragger. ;)

14th Nov 2001, 23:23
............and for max entertainment try single engine, Merlin or Griffon, three point landings on a paved runway in a crosswind.

14th Nov 2001, 23:53
Well. I've got my head up my butt today so just to point out.. :D

Taildragger is not an additional rating in the US (neither is high performance or complex), its an endorsement.

Multi or Sea is an additional rating.

This is a common error to make, in the US with a single engine PPL, you can log PIC in a taildragger while training for your endorsement, even though you are not legal to fly it solo. You are rated in the plane because it is "airplane single engine land", the same category and class as a C150/PA28.

You cannot do the same for your multi rating. You can only log PIC when you have passed the quizzes, until then you log dual and total time.

Re five hour conversion courses in the UK, go for it - but I don't think I'd ever sign you off as safe and competent after that few hours if you have just got your PPL with a few hours in a C150. Maybe that's because I'm a c^%p instructor, but probably more likely because it's not the sort of thing you can expect to pick up that quick (unless you are Chuck Yeager) if you want to do it properly :)

This is a common problem in the training industry. Why can people not give a realistic time for getting people safely to their ratings? I know that in the US the average is closer to 60 hours. That's 50% more than some clubs claim on their price lists for a 40 hour course.

[ 14 November 2001: Message edited by: slim_slag because I cannot get these damned UBB codes to work!!!!!! :mad: ]

[ 14 November 2001: Message edited by: slim_slag ]

Stan Evil
15th Nov 2001, 00:11
To fly a taildragger in the UK you must undergo 'differences training' with a flight instructor and have that recorded in your log book - signed by the instructor. However, there is nothing in print as to what 'differences training' involves - it needn't even involve flying. That said, as everyone else has said, you should do a conversion course with someone 'cos taxying, taking off and landing in a taildragger is a whole new experience.

Chuck Ellsworth
15th Nov 2001, 00:55
Hello Winkie:

You should do some in depth checking around your area for a good tailwheel instructor, that is the most important consideration when learning to fly one.

The conversion from a nose wheel to a tailwheel airplane is sometimes overstated as to its difficulty. The only difference between the two is ground handling and take off and landing. Once airborne it is no different than any other airplane.

When doing conversion training from nosewheel to tailwheel I first teach the student how to handle the airplane on the runway by doing high speed runs down the runway with the tail in the air, just slightly slower than flying speed. The best time of course is early in the morning or late evening when there is little or no wind, then you can run both ways on the runway, traffic and other things permitting. This usually will take about one hour of practice.

When I start the flying part of the training I first teach the student to master wheel landings on a paved runway, when the student is completely confident and skilled in wheel landings I then teach full stall ( three point landings).

There are many opinions on how best to land a tailwheel airplane however the wheel landing will give you the higest margin of safety especially on pavement in a x/wind.

Find the higest time instructor on tailwheel airplanes in your area and it really isn't a big deal, just more fun.


:D The hardest thing about flying is knowing when to say no. :D

15th Nov 2001, 03:53
Hey Cat,

Seems like you would do a good job of getting Winkie up to speed. How many hours do you reckon you could get him to where you would cut him loose? He sounds low time to me.

Winkie, go for it and make sure you get yourself up in a super cub or something similarly fun. With the cost of flights to the US right now I'd head over. You can get a super cub for a mere $56 out here. I hate saying this because you have to support the clubs back home in the UK, but you will save a load of dosh. This is especially so if you are paying everytime you come down and spend time on the ground - which is what a taildragger course really boils down to.

Chuck Ellsworth
15th Nov 2001, 04:52
Hi Slim-Slag:

Shure, I could give him the training if he wants it, I started flying in the early fifties and went right into crop dusting as my first job, of course we only had tailwheel airplanes then and there was no problem learning to fly them.

I have over 10,000 hours on tailwheel airplanes and only found two of them to be a little hard to fly, the Anson Mark five because of the weird braking system that only the British could invent and the Turbine Goose was a real hot machine because of the power and short coupling.

I am semi retired however still operate a worldwide training and ferry business, mostly PBY's and DC3's & Super 3's.

I am to stupid to quit so I converted a Cessna Aerobat to a Texas Taildragger for teaching tailwheel and recovery from unusual attitudes.

It is quite sad to see the poor quality of pilots that are put through the flying school grinder these days. But I do enjoy taking the really keen ones and showing them the finer points of how to really fly.

I did aerobatic and crop dusting training in your part of the country in the mid to late fifties, in Fort Collins Colorado.

By the way the Aerobat tailwheel conversion makes a real good cheap trainer, hell it's no Pitts Special but at least you can do most manouvers with it.


:D The hardest thing about flying is knowing when to say no. :D

Wee Weasley Welshman
15th Nov 2001, 13:16
I solo'd on a tailfragger at age 16. One with a near 50ft wingspan to boot...

I went on to become an instructor on said aircraft and taught plenty of youngsters who were able to solo safely in under 10 hours.

The aircraft was of course the Vigilant TMk1 Grob 109b belonging to the RAF operated by the Air Cadet movement.

For conversion purposes for a low time PPL I would say 3 - 5 hrs dual with an instructor would be fine. Make sure you get you logbook signed for the legal aspect re. "differences training".

What I would say is that you should only operate the aircraft with lower limits than you might in your Cessna. Until you have 50+hrs on taildraggers I would limit myself to 10kts Crosswind, 20kts Total wind and operating from tarmac at least 15m wide.

Enjoy your flying. Tailwheel aircraft are excellent primary trainers which demand and embue a greater "finesse" in their pilots.



15th Nov 2001, 18:38
Thank you all for the responses regarding my query. Anwswer any questions I had. Brilliant.