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Flown a Taildragger

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Flown a Taildragger

Old 19th May 2020, 23:28
  #1 (permalink)  
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Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Chicago, IL
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Flown a Taildragger

I'm curious ... For those of you who took the time to check out in a taildragger, do you think learning to handle one of these tricky little devils has made you a better pilot? Tell me why.
Jetwhine is offline  
Old 20th May 2020, 02:19
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Join Date: Mar 2005
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Like we folk, all aircraft have their very own unique character, some are pussy cats, some are tigers, it matters not if it has a nose or tail wheel. Cessna introduced the nose wheel in order to open up the market to attract the less skilled and marketing stressed how easy they were to land, which their tail wheel products with the spring steel legs were anything but for the less skilled. Learnt to fly in a Chipmunk, an extreme pussy cat, but not when it came to spinning. With only double figures in the log book then checked out in an Auster, when solo one day trying to land in very benign conditions I did circuit after circuit trying to land and was coming to the conclusion that the only way to arrive at a meeting of plane and earth would be running out of fuel or getting shot down. Never had so much trouble in all my life. Shortly after checked out in a Tiger Moth, a whole new lesson in aircraft handling, no brakes, effects taxiing in wind, necessity of having wing walkers at times, never had any problems though. Most DC-3 operation manuals dictated that three point landings were not to be made, the issue being the pointed wing tips were given to stalling with resulting uncontrollable roll leading to an accident, those with the necessary skill and judgement were able to show that they could be three pointed. All tail wheelers have a propensity to ground loop, some more than others, and is an area where handling finesse separates the men from the boys, crosswind operations open up a whole new area where you can demonstrate your ground loop skills, or avoidance of. Give it a go, it will open up a new area of aviating enjoyment for you.
megan is offline  
Old 20th May 2020, 10:55
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Join Date: Mar 2016
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Having learn't to fly on Tiger Moths I don't have first hand experience of going from nose-wheel to tailwheel; just the other way!

However, that won't stop me giving you an opinion. Ground handling is pretty much the only difference (obviously) between them and, as Megan says, they are all different. We can generalise and say that take-off and landing in a tailwheel aircraft requires more thought and more finesse than a nose-wheel aircraft. You can 'arrive' in a C172 and make it look not too bad. If you 'arrive' in most tailwheel aircraft, at best it will provide entertainment (to you and the locals), at worst break the aeroplane.

I'd encourage you to do a tailwheel convex, your judgement and handling skills will improve, as will your levels of satisfaction and enjoyment. Also it'll give you access to a lot of interesting aeroplanes, especially vintage types - if that is your 'bag'.

One point to keep in mind, on a windy day a tailwheel flight is not over until the hangar doors are shut.
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Old 20th May 2020, 10:57
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Join Date: Sep 2003
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There is not that much difference in reality. It's just differences that you adjust to just like any new skill. Well over half of my hours are in tailwheel aircraft. I fly a twin turbine tailwheel for a job with several thousands hours in it. Learn to look at the Wind Sock and understand what its actually telling you and feel for feedback from the aircraft rather than just expecting to bang it on and get away with it and you will be fine. In the air they are just like any other aircraft.
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Old 20th May 2020, 11:21
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What Megan said...

In terms of flying, the plane is the same, this includes crosswind handing. I will even say that in terms of allowing the main wheels to contact the surface during landings, taildraggers are very similar to tricycles - because you're still flying as far as the plane knows - the rudder is still ruddering. The problems seem to come when pilots give up flying taildraggers much too early int he landing. Yes, I reluctantly agree that you can give up flying a tricycle shortly after touching the mains, and probably get away with it. You must fly a taildragger until it has stopped - seriously! In truth, I fly my tricycle to the parking spot too, but that's just my sense of discipline.

Tricycle planes make new pilots lazy on the pedals - you really don't need to use them much, and if you're sloppy, the plane will tolerate it. As long as a taildragger has the tailwheel held off the surface, and you fly it with average pilot skill, you'll be fine. So, wheel landings! When training tricycle pilots to fly taildragger, I notice with alarm that the pilots seem to wrongly think that as soon as they can get the tailwheel on the surface, they don't have to worry about steering any more - no, that's when the work begins! The tailwheel steers the plane at taxi speeds, otherwise it's the rudder doing the steering, so that's what you must use. If you are holding the tail off, your mind will realize that you are still flying the plane.

Yes, when I was trained to fly the DC-3, I accidentally three pointed it. I felt the instructor's hand come up behind mine on the power levers, and push. As he calmly said "we don't three point DC-3's", I noticed the torque at the top of the red, as I realized he had turned my landing into a touch and go. With that gem of knowledge, I transitioned to wheel landing all taildraggers I flew. The Tiger Moth was one of the few I still three pointed, just 'cause it seemed happy landing that way, and I did not become accustomed enough to the view to play with wheel landings - I didn't fly them a lot. If I have another opportunity in a Moth, I would experiment with wheel landings for fun.

The vital thing about landing a taildragger is that the plane must absolutely be restrained from heading changes on the runway. It must be held right on the centerline. wandering laterally even a couple of feet will result in over controlling, and a ground loop. Happily for my discipline, my taildragger's wing tip floats would strike my runway lights were I to be five feet laterally off the centerline either way. So, not wanting to crunch either, I keep it on the centerline, and everything works as intended.

If you want to ease your transition to flying taildragger, the most important thing is to find a very experienced instructor to mentor you. Then, focus your mind on flying with precision. Try to fly from grass if you can. Look for a day with a 3- 5 knot 30 to 45 degree crosswind from the left (most pilots reference from the left better than the right when in the flare). You want that crosswind for your practice, the plane can handle it just fine, so should you - any taildragger you'll find to fly will handle 10 knots direct crosswind, so 5 knots at 30 to 45 degrees is well within the capacity for good control. You want it, because as you practice your wheel landings. Now you have the conditions, spread out the challenge of landing longer along the runway, so it's not all happening at once. Things go bad when you're task saturated. so trting to get three wheels onto the surface nicely at one time is three times the effort as trying to place one - task saturation. Instead, your very gentle crosswind will allow you to place the upwind main wheel on the surface first, and pause while you hold it there. Upwind main down, apply a little aileron to hold it there, if doing so lifts the downwind mainwheel a little higher off the surface for a few seconds, no problem. Hold the aileron that way (until you turn off the runway), as the other main will settle on as the plane slows - no task for you, less task saturation. Now, as the other main nicely settles on, apply a slight check forward on the elevator to delay the tailwheel touching, while meticulously hoping the plane on the centerline with the rudder - no sloppiness tolerated. As the plane slows, and you sense the tail settling, apply more stick forward to hold it off. Ideally, the tail will gently settle on with you holding the elevator full nose down. Important note: NO use of wheel brakes until you're holding full UP elevator.

You have eased your effort, by spreading the task of landing further along the runway, so it's not all happening in a blur at once. The bonus of the wheel landing will be that once you have the main wheels planted on the runway, and you've raised the tail a little (while NOT touching the brakes!!!), you have reduced the angle of attack, and you can hold it there as you slow. It's pretty well impossible to bounce a landing when you reduce the angle of attack as the plane slows - a lot of the lift jut went away! And, with the tail up, you have a much better view out the windshield.

Yes, being a proficient taildragger pilot will generally improve your flying skills, particularly in multi engine planes. You'll use the pedals in flight! (Important in the case of an engine failure in a twin). While I was flight testing a modified Twin Otter (yes, it's a tricycle), the very experienced training pilot right seat said to me: "You fly taildragger a lot, don't you...?". "well, yes..." I replied, "what makes you think so...?". "Because you use the pedals." was his reply. I felt complimented....

On the obverse, while overseeing a formal test pilot from the "authority" flying a modified Cessna Skymaster (yes, another tricycle), I found that he was very poor in using the pedals. The result was that during his slow flight, the plane kept breaking into incipient spins, as he did not control speed well enough to prevent a stall, and then did not keep the ball centered to prevent a spin. No harm done, but I finished the flying for him to assure that the actually compliance of the plane's handling was actually demonstrated! I inquired, he was a jet pilot, who had never flown a taildragger. I'm sure he was a fine jet pilot. We weren't flying a jet.

Go fly taildragger!
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Old 20th May 2020, 15:01
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Join Date: Aug 2007
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Flying a taildragger has made me a better and more satisfied pilot. It also means that I can afford to fly, as a lot of self maintained permit aircraft are tailwheel, and of course most of the WW2 fighters should I ever get a chance to fly one. Not flown a Tiger Moth except for a demo flight but have had the fun of taxying without brakes and steerable tailwheel, sometimes with a wing walker, when flying the classic Jodel D9. That use to cost me around 10 per hour just a couple of years ago.
rusty sparrow is offline  
Old 20th May 2020, 19:19
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Join Date: Oct 2007
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If you convert to tailwheel on grass, get some hard runway instruction. It's often much more difficult.
(I learned on a modified Tiger Moth taildragger, converted to a tailwheel Chipmunk, then to a C150 nosewheel. Most of my hours are Jodel DR1050 on hard runways.)
Maoraigh1 is offline  
Old 20th May 2020, 19:36
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Join Date: Apr 2008
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How does it go? Real taildraggers fly the pilots? Err, no. Plenty of people have learned on conventional gear. It makes them better at fully held off landings and ground handling. Which is good. Pilot DAR has a good take on this. Me, I just like Cubs. And my half of an ST 87. And my M14. It's all good. Fly the best you can, whatever it is. Ok, keep the ball in the middle. Which works on everything, except in a sideslip.
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