Ted's Aircraft Shop
Learn to Fly a Taildragger
A taildragger is also called a conventional aircraft, because having the little wheel in back was standard and conventional for about
the first 40 years since the Wright Brothers. Then someone realized that putting that swiveling wheel up front tamed the
beast and made it taxi straight. Taxiing a taildragger is a little like pushing a wheelbarrow. The thing has a mind of
its own and wants to turn around all the time. You have to anticipate where you want to go and keep at it. The same with
It all has to do with two facts: The main landing gear is in front of the center of gravity.
And the aircraft has a tendency to want to put the center of gravity in front of the landing gear. Backing up a car is harder
than driving it forward--similar principle. This tendency to swing the tail is exacerbated by crosswinds and any landing
that is not straight ahead. And the problem becomes more acute the slower the plane decelerates, since the rudder has less and
less ability to counteract the "weathervaning". This is why we say "fly the airplane right into the hangar."
all have the sense that "real pilots" are taildragger pilots. Taildragger pilots have tamed the beast. They can land
in crosswinds. And they know that a rudder has a real function beyond steering on the ground. Unlike what we have heard, learning
to fly a taildragger is not so difficult with a little instruction and practice in a Piper Cub or Aeronca Champ. 10 hours should
do it. Once you have learned to avoid the dreaded ground loop, and can handle moderate crosswinds, you are well on you way to
For those of you who want to understand how to do it, instead of just learning to do it, grab
the book "The Compleat Taildragger Pilot" by Harvey S. Plourde. (www.Amazon.com) He acknowledges the greater skill required
in taildraggers, but he also gives pilots confidence that learning to fly taildraggers is well within reach. He covers all bases--takeoffs,
landings, crosswind operations, concepts, the transition to taildraggers, instructors, and odds and ends.
You need an
instructor. Find them by Googling "tailwheel instructor". Learn the skills in a Piper Cub or an Aeronca Champ or a Citabria
or a Maule. There is nothing like it.