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Ab Initio #7: Tailwheel Training

Posted By:
Brady Lane
Young Eagles Pilot or VolunteerHomebuilder or Craftsman
109
Posts
103
#1 Posted: 3/25/2010 16:33:22 Modified: 4/7/2010 14:09:14

I'm so glad to finally begin working toward my tailwheel endorsement!

After each of my flights, I will post a new video to this thread so check back regularly for updates.  I welcome all your advice, pointers, tips and criticism as long as you're gentle.

This first flight gave me quite an appetite and desire for tailwheel flying, but also made me feel like a fish out of water.

I'm flying an experimental Cubby and it only took a couple seconds sitting in it to realize this is a completely different aircraft than the REMOS I trained in.  Before we even reached the runway to take off, my feet were already tired just following Jason through on the pedals.  This is going to take some conditioning!

Jason flew the first takeoff and immediately I felt how different a 85 hp engine climbs than the 100 hp Rotax I'm used to. (Correction: I originally thought it still had the 65hp engine, but recently learned it was 85, hence the correction here).

 


The biggest adjustment and what made me feel most uncomfortable on this first flight was not the tailwheel, but rather not being able to see out the front or being able to see any of the instruments.  Jason is tall to begin with but he's also sitting on a 4" cushion, so his shoulders completely cover my view of the panel.  Not being able to reference our airspeed and always having to guess our altitude is not a comfortable feeling.  I'm really going to have to learn to fly this plane by feel and sound.  

Jason said the Cub has probably trained more pilots than any other plane.  My grandfather's first flight in the early 40's was in a cub and after just one flight I can already see why so many people love flying this plane.

I know I'm not the first to transition from a nosewheel to a tailwheel plane, so don't be shy with your advice.  I'll take all the pointers and tips you can give me.

I know I have a challenge ahead of me, but I'm ready for it. 
 


Ab initio header.jpg I recently earned my sport pilot certificate and documented the entire process with cockpit cameras and a blog at EAA.org/Wings.  As I continue to fly, I'll continue to roll the cameras and post videos here to Oshkosh365.  To see other posts in this series, visit EAA.org/abinitio.

 



EAA 808095 Multimedia Journalist
Dorothy Klapp
27
Posts
20
#2 Posted: 3/25/2010 19:29:04

Most of the time I'm in a PA-12, my flying buddy is up front - He's a foot taller than me, so I fully sympathize with your inability to see the panel! I end up using my peripheral vision a lot more to help keep myself straight and level, much less learning when and how much to flare.

When you taxi (and take off and land) in a tail wheel, I can still quote by heart, "Small smooth corrections, not large late ones!" Each time you touch the rudders, you are moving a big huge control surface out there on the back (and a steerable tail wheel, if you have one). Just like you don't spin your steering wheel hard to the right and hold it if you've drifted a little in your highway lane, you don't jam your foot down and hold in rudder for small corrections. Think like a boxer's fists - jab, jab, jab. In slow motion, what you are doing is putting in a small correction, seeing where the momentum from that correction takes you, then putting in a refinement or another small correction.

When you have a long stretch, you'll learn to do S-turns on the taxiway, so you can get a good look at any traffic or hazards up front. GO SLOW. The old adage that a taxi should be no faster than a man can walk often gets blown off in nosewheels, but it's like driving this way: the faster you go, the faster things go wrong and the easier it is to overcorrect.

If your instructor is amenable, I highly recommend doing a low pass, flying the airplane one wing-length above the runway for its entire length. The sight picture and the attitude for landing are critical, yet you only experience them for a few seconds each flight. Doing this will give you a much better feel for the sight picture you want, and handling the airplane in ground effect.

If you have time, find a book named "Stick and Rudder" by Wolfgang Langewiesche, and "The Compleat Taildragger Pilot" by Harvey Plourde. They thoroughly cover this sort of flying, with lots more advice and experience than I have!




Rod Witham
Homebuilder or Craftsman
62
Posts
17
#3 Posted: 3/26/2010 00:13:37

Oh man, how I envy the opportunites you have - what a cool job! Let me say that if you ever need any time off, I'm volunteering right here and now to fill in for ya while you're gone!

I'm certainly not an expert, but I know this - you're going to have some fun. You'll be learning both wheel and 3 point landings, and a whole lot about eliminating drift and side load while landing as well as positive control on the ground. I second Dorothy's book recommendations (especially Plourde's yellow book), and I also gained some insight from a DVD called Tailwheel 101 by Damian DelGaizo. Mostly, just do exactly as you've always done - pay close attention to your instructor!

Pretty soon you'll be ready for that Stearman!!!

Thanks for the videos - and don't forget to call me when you're ready for a vacation!

Rod



Eric Rood
IAC MemberAirVenture Volunteer
33
Posts
10
#4 Posted: 3/26/2010 09:45:07

To solve the problem of the person in the front seat being to tall and not being able to directly see the instruments:

if the lighting is right, look at the reflection of the instrument panel in the left side window. The instruments will appear "backwards", but you can see the position of the pointers and mentally reverse the image to correctly interpret the information being displayed.



Jerry Rosie
Young Eagles Pilot or Volunteer
482
Posts
101
#5 Posted: 3/26/2010 10:52:54

Welcome, Brady to the world of REAL flight!  You are going to have a ball.  

 I am remembering my first takeoff in a taildragger after having successfully impressed my instructor with my ability to taxi.  Just as the tail came up, I drifted left so... correct to the right, oops too much, back left, dang too much again.... after about four S turns down the runway, the airplane took pity on me and took to the air before I left the runway entirely...wheew... 

 The landing was nearly as much fun, but after about three of them, I was able to do it without scaring myself half to death.

  I think the best thing that my instructor ever told me about doing rudder work on the ground was to not try to correct for drift but to just try to stop it.  That little trick made all the difference in the world in my tendancey to over correct and over control.

My current taildragger is a side-by-side which makes seeing things on the ground even more difficult.  In a tandem you can lean left or right while taxiing to get a bit better view of what is in front of you.  In the side-by-side, you just can't lean far enough right to see past the nose of the airplane on the ground so all taxiing is S turns (or have someone you trust in the right seat looking out for things you are going to run into on that side).

Have a ball in your training - Low and slow is what real flying is all about (plus a 65 horse probably burns much less gas than your ROTAX [g]).....

 

 

 

 



Cheers, Jerry NC22375 out of 07N
Adam Baker
Homebuilder or Craftsman
32
Posts
8
#6 Posted: 3/26/2010 13:55:16

Is that my buddy Jason Blair teaching you how to fly, or just some scruffy look-alike?

 

~Adam



Shannon Coleman
Homebuilder or Craftsman
69
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27
#7 Posted: 3/29/2010 08:26:07 Modified: 3/29/2010 08:29:31

Welcome to the club!  Flying a taildragger is a lot like golf...its one of the most rewarding and most frustrating things you can do in aviation.  Just when you think you got the hang of it....

An old timer at the local airport likes to say, "don't stop flying till BOTH wings are tied down."  He once was tying one down and had one rope on when a gust came and spun the plane and the wing bumped him in the head.

"Not being able to reference our airspeed and always having to guess our altitude is not a comfortable feeling."  In the words of my old banner towing boss - "what do you need an altimeter for?  Can't you judge 400 ft" (we had a waiver to tow at 400 AGL).

By the way, I really like how you've documented your learning experiences.  I wish we could get your articles into the mainstream so that your passion could be contagious and get aviation growing again.

 



Joe LaMantia
Young Eagles Pilot or Volunteer
175
Posts
69
#8 Posted: 3/29/2010 09:20:32

Hi everybody!  

I did some tail-wheel training in a Citabria back in 2001 at Moraine Airpark in Dayton.  This airplane had the advantage of allowing the student to sit up front so I could see the panel and the view forward was "normal" once the tail came up.  My instructor was a 23 year-old who was fearless and very quick to fix some exciting errors on my part.  The Citabria is very responsive on the controls especially roll.  Great fun!  I took my lessons on Saturday afternoons and my son came out to watch me one week.  He said the old guys sitting on the FBO deck were grading all my landings...we had a good laugh.  I got to the point where I could land without scaring anybody and were starting on wheeled landings then 9/11 happened and shut everything down.  I went back in the spring of 2002 but they had sold the Citabria by then, so I never did get the endorsement.  When it comes to pure fun you can't beat a tail-dragger!  This is a great forum and your getting some great advice.


Have Fun!


Joe





Ralph King
437
Posts
50
#9 Posted: 3/29/2010 14:03:54 Modified: 3/29/2010 14:05:10

Brady welcome to the real world of flying, (taildraggers)

Always remember that you can make an aircraft carrier very short length landing.   This entails landing over a fence on a farm and hooking the tail wheel in the top of the fence and landing in 50 feet.  Of course you must lift the tail wheel and drag the fence back to the fence post, re -attache for the next short field landing.

 

Ralph

 



Ron Dillard
32
Posts
5
#10 Posted: 3/29/2010 16:35:09

Brady,

 

If you will go to my web site www.advancedtailwheeltraining.com  and click on "Tailwheel Basics" you will find an article I wrote that was published in the Jan and Feb 2007 Piper Flyer Magazine. I believe it will help in your tailwheel training.

Good Luck

I sent the above as a PM to Brady so it would not look as though I was advertising on the forum. Brady messaged me back and requested that I post it here.

 

 



Robert Dingley
Homebuilder or Craftsman
161
Posts
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#11 Posted: 3/30/2010 01:02:10

Cool, Brady.

I learned from the get go in a green Cub with a fully castering tail wheel. No rudder springs. I was in high school with cash flow problems. I was only logging a couple hours per month. Then about December, snow came to my part of Maine. The Cub grew skis.

I no longer sweated ground loops in the perpetual cross wind. But there was a small detail. The instructor told me to treat her like a sea plane. Don't make downwind taxi turns. Always turn into the wind. Yeah, sure! I was 17 and knew everything. On my first go on skis, I back taxied for take off with a good cross wind and turned my usual 180 to the left...down wind. It was like being on railroad tracks. No differential brakes. It refused to turn more than 90 deg with the nose pointing into the trees. My instructor made me unstrap, get into the waist deep powder and muscle the tail around.

The point was made and I never turned down wind again. I saved my pennies and soloed (skis) Feb 16,1957 with 7 hrs, 50 min. When the snow left, it was back to the castoring tail wheel, but I was an old pro by then. 



Jerry Rosie
Young Eagles Pilot or Volunteer
482
Posts
101
#12 Posted: 3/30/2010 09:06:18
Ron Dillard wrote:

 

Brady,

 

If you will go to my web site www.advancedtailwheeltraining.com  and click on "Tailwheel Basics" you will find an article I wrote that was published in the Jan and Feb 2007 Piper Flyer Magazine. I believe it will help in your tailwheel training.

Good Luck

I sent the above as a PM to Brady so it would not look as though I was advertising on the forum. Brady messaged me back and requested that I post it here.

 

 

 

Excellent article, Ron. I see that it is part of your sylibus, and anyone contemplating tailwheel training should read it.

 



Cheers, Jerry NC22375 out of 07N
Joe Norris
Vintage Aircraft Association MemberYoung Eagles Pilot or VolunteerHomebuilder or CraftsmanAirVenture Volunteer
328
Posts
137
#13 Posted: 3/30/2010 09:29:44 Modified: 3/31/2010 17:55:29

Good going Brady!  I'm sure you'll totally enjoy tailwheel flying.  But I'm warning you, it's gonna spoil you rotten!  Once you really get comfortable with flying that Cub you are gonna want to do it more and more.  Flying the Remos won't be nearly as exciting anymore!tongueout

Seriously though, learning to fly the Cub from the back seat while not seeing past the instructor will serve you well in the future.  Being comfortable with taxi, takeoff and landing while not being able to see directly ahead is good preparation if you ever want to get involved with vintage airplanes (especially those round engine biplanes you see around here!)  Good training indeed!

Good luck, and keep up the good work!

Cheers!

Joe



Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate
Ron Dillard
32
Posts
5
#14 Posted: 3/30/2010 12:46:52

Thanks for the kind words Jerry, I use that as a handout to my Tailwheel Transitions Clients.



Adam Smith
Young Eagles Pilot or VolunteerHomebuilder or Craftsman
538
Posts
381
#15 Posted: 3/30/2010 20:03:28

Welcome to the wonderful world of Cub flying, Brady!



Mark Linzenmeyer
Homebuilder or Craftsman
8
Posts
3
#16 Posted: 3/30/2010 20:28:05

Brady,

Your videos have inspired me to resume my flight training in the E-LSA catigory. I actually started my PPL training 7 years ago, but the cost was too much at that time in my life.

   Tomorrow I will begin in a Areonca Champ available at my local airport. I chose to train in a taildragger because I also recently purchased a Hipps Reliant, also a taildragger. The solo part of my training wil be in my own plane! How cool is that!

I look forward to you vids, and I'll post with my progress.

Mark



Jerry Rosie
Young Eagles Pilot or Volunteer
482
Posts
101
#17 Posted: 3/31/2010 08:38:45

Way to go, Mark!  Your story is similar to mine.  Took me about 10 years between first solo and my checkride due to a number of interruptions.  You'll be glad you resumed your training.  Keep us posted.

 



Cheers, Jerry NC22375 out of 07N
Brady Lane
Young Eagles Pilot or VolunteerHomebuilder or Craftsman
109
Posts
103
#18 Posted: 4/7/2010 14:14:02

Here's the video of my second flight in the Cubby.

I'm absolutely loving this old airplane.  This was my first time at the controls during takeoff and landing.  I'm hooked.  Each time around the pattern I learned something new so I included portions of each of the five landings.




The last two landings show how inconsistent I am right now, going from a monstrous bounce to a silky smooth landing.

About half way through this flight I learned how important it is to properly trim the plane throughout the pattern.  

One quick question though—I'm noticing the back pressure required on the stick during these three-point landings is considerably more than the super responsive and sensitive Remos I normally fly.  On the last landing I was in the flare and the throttle was pulled all the way back, I used both hands to pull the stick all the way back.  (Jason called me a wimp and told me I needed to go work out.)

Since I obviously don't want to keep using two hands, should I trim the plane even more aggressively on final so more of the back-pressure is relieved during the flare?  In other words, do you trim the plane so you need a little forward pressure on final to help with the flare?

Thanks everyone for your tips and book recommendations.  I've already started hunting down some of the books and have printed out Ron's article so I can reference it throughout my training.

Mark,  Glad to hear you're resuming your training!  Be sure to keep us posted on your progress.



EAA 808095 Multimedia Journalist
Dorothy Klapp
27
Posts
20
#19 Posted: 4/7/2010 15:37:44

Brady,

Trim. trim, trim. trim-trimitty-trim-trim. trim!

And always do stop n' go's instead of touch n' go's on the runway, not only so every landing teaches you how to do a full and final landing, every takeoff is actually a full takeoff, and they have to be to a full stop to count for passenger-carrying currency in a tailwheel, but also because it gives you time to retrim and set up for takeoff.

Trim for neutral, not for forward pressure - trim so that coming down short final, if you took your hand off the stick for a moment, the plane would continue sliding right down your chosen glide slope. (Not that you should take your hand off the stick to test this, but you shouldn't need to!) While you'll still need back pressure to flare, this should avoid the hauling back, grunting, and bracing by putting pressure on the rudders.

PS. trim for takeoff, too.

 

Ron - great article!

Mark - congrats on getting back into the airplane! What led you to choose the one you bought?

 



Ron Dillard
32
Posts
5
#20 Posted: 4/7/2010 15:43:57

Brady,

 

What Dorothy said.

 

Thanks for the kind words DK.



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