Taildragger landings

Discussion in 'Rules and Regulations / Flight Safety / Better Pil' started by rangerider, Dec 1, 2004.

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  1. Dec 1, 2004 #1

    rangerider

    rangerider

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    I have heard a little about landing taildraggers, and I am building a taildragger right now, but I do not have the endorsement. Maybe someone can enlighten me a bit about the matter. From what I understand the airplane must be lined up straight with the heading during landing because the center of gravity is substantially behind the main wheels which causes the likelihood of turning abruptly on the wheels in a fast 180 on ground contact, which is not good. I would like someone to tell me how critical that issue is when landing a taildragger. You know how people write about these kind of things. "The aircraft must be lined up absolutely straight with the heading when landing...bla,bla...". How straight is "absolutely straight" in this case? I went out and shot a few crosswind landings this afternoon in a triycle gear cessna this afternoon, and had some nice landings where the airplane was not perfectly straight. Maybe 3 to 5 degrees off straight, but in a 7 to 9 kt crosswind it's hard to hold it perfect every time. Is that straight enough? Certainly there is a margin of acceptable error. Are there issues here that I don't know about that make all the diference?
    Also, does it reduce the likelihood of spinning on landing if the main wheels are farther apart? How does that change the airplane's landing behavior? Feel free to explain this completely if you are inspired.
    Thanks all.
    R
     
  2. Dec 1, 2004 #2

    Craig

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    TW Landings

    Rangerider -
    I have about 1200 hours in tailwheel aircraft, and have just finished my Bakeng Duce, another TW plane.
    Personally, I've never had a groundloop. Came close one day when another instructor was flying a Bellanca Scout - he was more used to tricycle gear planes, and started to let it get away from him. Rapid use of ALL the right rudder the plane had straightened it out, but I do remember seeing the wingtip about a foot from the ground!
    There are a lot of factors at work here, but the key to overcoming them is proper use of the rudder.
    I generally keep my feet moving just a little bit on the pedals - if they are in motion, even just little alternate pressures, it makes the reaction time a lot quicker. No big deal - but you do have to use your ability to concentrate; don't let your attention lapse.
    The old saying about flying until it's chocked pertains to both types of landing gear.
    About the wheelbae - up to a point, the wider the better. You'll find that the most stable designs are those with the wheels 20-25% of the span apart are more comfortable to fly. Avoid having the CG too far forward or too far aft, also.
    Tailwheels get a lot of bad press - and they don't deserve it. Read Langlische's "Stick and Rudder" for the best treatment of the whole subject of flying precisely.
     
  3. Dec 13, 2004 #3

    Greyeagle44f

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    I have a couple of thousand hours in Tail Draggers...Cub, PT-23, BT-13, At-6, C-47, C-46...

    True...the wider the tread (not wheel base here!) the easier to control.

    It is more imperitive that the aircraft be brought to a complete stall when landing than in the case of a tri gear.

    Cross wind landings can be accomplished with a low wing approach or a crab...using the crab method one kicks it out at stall (we used to do it with a C-47 by pulling up the flaps at the point you wanted it on the asphalt).

    C-46 was the hairiest of the TDs I have flown! Huge vertical satbilizer, small rudder surface.

    Once you have tamed the TD all your landing will be better.

    Good book to read..."The Compleat (sic) Taildragger" by the late Harvey Plourde.
     
  4. Dec 14, 2004 #4

    Swiftdh

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    Taildraggers

    I'm probably the lightweight here with 600 or so tailwheel hours, but I have flown with some really good pilots and might pass on a few things that I have learned over the years. Tailwheel aircraft are not the demons that they are made out to be. They are, however, different on the ground, and must be learned. A so called "tailwheel endorsement" by some CFI after shooting a few landings may not give you what you need to be comfortable in TWs, and especially in different crosswind conditions.

    Taxiing a TW is not easy in the wind. The Horiz Stab wants to windvane so you have to go slow and stay ready on the brakes. Takeoff is usuallya matter of power up, tail up, and hold straight until it's ready to fly. Where a non TW pilot will get himself in trouble here is by making big rudder movements or by being lazy on the rudder. The trick is to keep your feet moving constantly and make small rudder "jabs" to correct direction. Believe me, by the time the airplane has made a significant move in one direction or the other, it may already be too late. One has to be constantly correcting with mini-rudder jabs.

    Landings can be a matter of choice. I prefer to hold wing down into the cross wind and line the airplane up with rudder. This is a cross control and may require just a bit more speed than normal but it lets me get to the runway straight and ready to land. Again, a matter of choice, but I usually wheel land or put the airplane on the mains. In a cross wind, I believe it allows me more control until the tail wheel touches. At that point, the airplane is slow enough that I suck the stick back and do the rest with rudder and brakes. Full stall landings are fine, especially if the wind is down the runway. It is just what you practice and are more comfortable with. You really need to learn both.

    I have flown T-crafts, Champs, PT-19s, Cessna 120-140s, and currently own and fly a Baby Ace and a Globe Swift. The Swift has a horrible reputation but it is undeserved. Good TW technique and practice will make a pussycat out of any of them. Get with a known TW Instructor and spend the time it takes to really learn what that rudder is for.

    Dave
     
  5. Dec 14, 2004 #5

    rangerider

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    From what i have been reading it would seem that the tailwheel airplanes behave much like a tripod airplane when making soft field tkeoffs and landings, with the front wheel held off the ground. the additional rudder control makes that a tricky procedure, but not all that uncomfortable.
    Would you say that is a fair comparison?
     
  6. Dec 14, 2004 #6

    Greyeagle44f

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    For take-offs, I would agree.

    Frankly, I never thought take-offs in a TD were all that different from a tri-gear...but then my first thousand hours were all in TDs!
     
  7. May 12, 2005 #7

    Rhino

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    Forgive my ignorance (still a low time student), but I was told that you never flare a TW to a stall similar to a tri-gear. Was I misinformed, or am I just confusing "flare" and "stall"?
     
  8. May 12, 2005 #8

    Greyeagle44f

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    Rhino...I have always understood that "flare" refers to positioning the a/c from a descent attitude to a landing attitude (tail low in tri or TD)which must be done on every landing or one would drive the machine into the ground!

    Point is that if you want the bird to land it should be stalled...or you are still flying.

    The larger TDs I have flown (C-46, C-47) were often "wheel landed" in a stiff cross wind (the C-46 had a huge tail and a comparitively small rudder) thus one flared for the attitude (in this case near level), put the mains on the ground often at slightly above stall speed then pulled all power off and let the tail drop.
     
  9. May 12, 2005 #9

    Craig

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    Flaring

    Rhino-
    If you fly your approach at 1.3 x Vs, you can comfortably flare the airplane to the same attitude that it sits on the ground - this is usually just about stall speed. Then the plane just settles onto the ground in a 3-point attitude.
    You may sometimes - especially in a plane witht he modified Clark-Y such as the Duce has - carry just a bit of power to decrease the sink speed. I usually find myself with about 1300 rpm or so. Now, when you flare, and are "holding it off" with the elevator, as the elevator comes back, so does the power. The airplane then settles in at about stall speed. Many pilots forget that power is another control to be used as necessary - remember that power controls rate of ascent/descent, whilst attitude controls airspeed.
    A friend of mine, now learning to fly, has an instrutor who insists that he uses power to control airspeed, and maintain a constant attitude. IMHO, a big error.
    Crosswind landings are done the same way, but with the wing down a bit to keep you (reasonably) straight with the runway.
    In many of the slower taildraggers, the landing speed is very slow, and the rollout minimal. Therefore, it is sometimes possible to either takeoff or land diagonally to the runway heading, especially on grass. No, I'm not talking about 45 degrees to runway heding, but sometimes 5-10 degrees into the wind can make a big difference. Don't try this on one of the really narrow runways, tho! Remember that early "aerodromes" were often nothing more than a smooth 40-acre field, and the pilot could line up whatever direction he/she wanted to. 'Course, sometimes they had to run the cows off first!!!
    Safe flight!
     
  10. May 12, 2005 #10

    Greyeagle44f

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    Craig has it right...

    I first flew (in USAAF Primary Flying, 1943, PT-23) at Harris Field Cape Girardeau MO. The Army Air Corps, in its infinite wisdom, had "square" grass fields and initially we always took off and landed into the wind.

    Cross wind landings were taught at a later stage and the instructor could make it as difficult or easy as he chose!

    The USAAF's "infinite wisdom" also suggested the use of gosports for communication...the instructor could talk to the student but no lip from student to instructor!

    Was it really that long ago? It was, and I have just hung up the headset at 82...never busted a check or dented a machine in 7,000 hours.

    My Falco is for sale.

    Greyeagle44f
     
  11. May 13, 2005 #11

    Rhino

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    Thanks guys. I was familiar with the concept of "wheel landings" in high winds (given enough runway) and using power to control attitude more than speed, but was never really clear on exactly how a TW is landed differently from a tri-gear. In a nutshell, absent a cross or quartering wind, they really don't seem to be all that different, other than dropping the nose of course. I'll be training in both TW and tri, so the subtle differences will become more obvious to me soon enough.
     
  12. May 13, 2005 #12

    Greyeagle44f

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    Rhino...Now you've got it right. an airplane is an airplane.

    I highly recommend the book I mentioned earlier, "The Compleat Taildragger" by Harvey Plourde. I knew Harvey, flew with him to get myself a Private License SEL (in a Beech Skipper) after I got out of the USAF (Command Pilot, but we did not need an FAA ticket and I never got one until I was half-way through building the Falco). For a time I was the only Student Pilot in New England with 7,000 hours.

    Unfortunatel Harvey was killed landing a Lake on the water here in NH some years back. He added power too quickly on a go around without enough elevator control and the high thrust line got him (I have some USAF SA-16 time). He was a recognized expert on taildraggers.

    He gave me a copy of his book while I was building, noting in the back (I am quoting here):

    "Now John, if I could just get you to add a wheel on the ass-end of that Falco..."

    Good man.


    Greyeagle
     
  13. May 16, 2005 #13

    Rhino

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    That book wouldn't by any chance have a yellow cover, would it? My CFI recommended I buy "the yellow book" from the FSO. They use that as their TW 'bible' and always refer to it as "the yellow book". Wouldn't surprise me if it is the same book you refer to.
     
  14. May 16, 2005 #14

    Falco Rob

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    Rangerider,

    Don't pay any attention to all these experts (said with tongue firmly planted in cheek) - I'm probably the best man here to give you advice because I have a total of 8 (yes, that EIGHT!) hours of taildragger time so can tell you first hand just how much fun you have coming your way!

    My BFR was well overdue so a few weeks back I thought I'd get an aerobatic endorsement at the same time, instead of just flying round in circles to get the BFR.

    The local school I approached to do this said "No problem, we can do that in our CAP 10". For those who don't know (I was one) the CAP 10 is a French built, wood and fabric, low wing tail dragger with a 180HP Lycoming.

    "What the hell, thought I, I'll get a tailwheel endorsement as well"

    The routine was taxi out, take off, head to the training area for about 50 minutes of aeros and then back to land. After 3 hours of this I decided to curtail the aero's, which were a lot of fun and really quite easy, and concentrate on circuits and landings, which were no where near as much fun and decidedly more difficult.

    I don't want to put you off as you will eventually get the hang of it, but as my ab initio TD time is terrifyingly fresh in my memory I'm here to say that if you've flown nothing but tricycle gear aircraft, as I have, the tail dragger is a whole new ball game.

    To be fair however, a friend with an RV-6 who did his endorsement in the CAP 10 at the same time I did, tells me that compared to the RV-6 the CAP 10 it a real pig to keep straight on the ground.

    Maybe I just picked a difficult aircraft to learn on, but on the bright side once you're off the ground it's a lovely, responsive little aeroplane and absolutely delightful to do aeros in.

    The book "The Compleat Taildragger" by Mr Plourde does have a yellow cover, BTW. Another RV-6 driver loaned it to me after I had started my endorsement and I noticed that most of the theory my instructor was trying to hammer into my head appeared to have been lifted from it word for word.

    As a matter of interest and to settle an arguement I've been having with the guys here, can someone advise if "Compleat" is the American way of spelling "Complete" or has the printer just stuffed up?

    Rob
     
  15. May 16, 2005 #15

    Greyeagle44f

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    Rhino and Falco Rob...Indeed, Harvey's book is "The Yellow Book" and the word "Compleat" was taken by Harvey since he was familiar with a very famous book (published in 1653) written by Izaac Walton (that told all about another subject) called the "The Compleat Angler"...it is listed in my dictioary as an archaic version of complete.

    I believe the difficulty perceived by some in tail draggers comes from one's initial introduction to flying...if by way of the TD it never occurs to you that it is difficult.

    As I indicated, I had over 1,000 hours of flying time before I ever saw a "training wheel" up front.

    Greyeagle
     
  16. Aug 13, 2005 #16

    Chester

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    taildraggers

    Gentlemen,

    This is a GREAT topic. As I am a nose wheel pilot who is about to embark on the what will be my greatest acomplishment in building a Kitfox Classic IV as a taildragger, your words here have inspired me to no end. I have just purchased both books, the Compleat Taildragger and Stick & Rudder as you all advised. I will be calling in my order for my aircraft in the next week or two as the dust at work is still settling.

    Even thou I didn't start this topic, thanks for all your words of wisdom. :D :D
     
  17. Aug 19, 2005 #17

    rangerider

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    This really did turn out to be a good thread, didn't it.
    i am still about as far along as I was on my project as I was before. A Falconar F-11 A. I am still without a tailwheel endorsement, but flying is what you make it. Being a fairly new pilot, I make use of every flying opportunity as a training exercise, which means tightening up landings every time out.
    Keep this coming if you want. It's good.

    R
     
  18. May 5, 2006 #18

    h_zwakenberg

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    Really great thread, thank to all of you.

    Might I add a question?

    currently I fly tri-gear aeroplanes, I have no TD experience, with the exception of 650 hrs of flying sailplanes.

    Is there anybody out there that can compare sailplane TD landing with aeroplane TD landings? The local club has a J3 and I wondered whether I should take a TD endorsement course.
     
  19. May 5, 2006 #19

    Craig

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    Airplane vs. glider

    I used to teach in gliders - mostly Schweitzers and Blanics, some Ka-7 work.

    Most glider landings are rather like wheel landings in taildraggers - landing in a more or less level attitude. The 1-26 was a delight to "two-point", however, and would land really short if you wanted to.

    Still, tho, you do have the experience of having the CG well behind the main wheel, and therefore the flying machine has a slight tendency to swap ends if you don't keep active on the rudder.

    I was also flying the tow plane (a lot!), switching between a Bellanca Scout and the Citabria, and really didn't pay a lot of attention to the differences - there were virtually none.

    I don't think you will have any trouble at all with taildraggers. Your glider experiences have taught you that rudder pedals are more than footrests. Go for it!
     
  20. May 5, 2006 #20

    h_zwakenberg

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    Thanks Craig for the encouragement!

    Just as an aside: I flew the following gliders: Ka-7, Ka-13, Ka-8, Ka-6CR, Slingsby Skylark, Pilatus B4, Gö-4, Slingsby Sedbergh
    As you can see, all gliders from before the plastic planes took over... Somehow the most memorable flights were made on the Skylark, a somewhat heavy wooden glider.

    bye
    Hans
     

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