How To Fly A Taildragger

Once before all aircraft used to be taildraggers. Well, at least every airplane with a tailwheel or a tailskid at least.

How To Fly A Taildragger

We will admit, when they are on the ground they can be a little tricky in comparison to other aircraft.

However, in their air, they are a dream.

Before we get started, let’s go over three points about Taildraggers, we think you need to know.

Flying A Taildragger Is Not Easy!

The first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions a taildragger is the image of a plane in a wide open field.

However, this is far from reality. You need to have a lot of patience and practice. It takes time to get used to this type of aircraft.

The Most Important Thing About A Taildragger 

You should know how to land it. This is very important! If you don’t know how to do it, then you should take lessons.

There are many videos online showing how to land a taildragger, we recommend taking a quick look

How To Fly A Taildragger?

There are two main ways to fly taildraggers. One is the “normal” way (the one ‘we’ use) and the second one is called “skid-landing”.

In order to understand how to fly a taildragger, let’s start by explaining the normal landing technique.

So, How do you fly a taildragger?

What Is A Taildragger?

A taildragger is an aircraft which has its engine mounted behind the cockpit instead of in front of it.

This means that the pilot sits in the back and he/she controls everything through pedals and sticks.

They also have a large vertical stabilizer in order to keep the aircraft level while flying.

They have their main landing gear in front of their center of gravity.

Their tailwheel is steerable which supports the aft fuselage, which means that the tail of the plane almost looks to be resting on the ground, which is the reason behind the name,

It was such a common thing to find on aircraft before that they were just airplanes with normal gear, now, of course, things are different.

Tricycle Gear Vs Taildragger

In a tricycle gear aircraft, the nose wheel is connected to the fuselage and the rest of the wheels are independent of each other.

On the contrary, in a taildragger, all three wheels are connected to the same axle. This makes it easier to steer because there is no difference between left and right.

Another difference is how a taildragger has its center of gravity behind the primary landing gear, however, tricycle gear will have this in front of their primary gear. 

In the air this makes absolutely no difference at all, however, on the ground it does make some differences for the pilot. 

Upon take off and landing having a tricycle gear set-up is just easier, better to control and is just more controllable for the pilot. 

Taildragger gear is a bit harder, landing is more rough on the gears and with the tailwheel not on the ground it will usually bounce around and feel like it’s trying to fly off again. 

The taildragger’s weight also lets it down on the ground, as due to the vast majority of its weight being behind the primary gear, it is not as easy to steer on the ground.

But, you do not fly a plane for its skill on the ground, do you? Its air performance is more important. 

Flying Techniques

The only special skills you need to fly this type of plane is in reference to its ground performance.

Both Taildraggers and Tricycle geared planes will handle quite alike to one another in the air, but on the ground it is not so similar. 

You need to learn how to fly this plane, land it, taxi it, and take off with more finesse and skill than when the plane is soaring through the air. 

Taxiing A Taildragger

How To Fly A Taildragger

When you are taxiing a taildragger the aircraft will have its nose up in the air, it will be hard to see the runway ahead of you.

So, you will often find that pilots who fly these planes will usually look out of the side windows. 

Much like how you act when you are trying to park your car in an awkward spot. 

However, doing so will usually mean that as the pilot, you need to turn the airplane, or you may also swerve slightly. Let’s not forget those pesky crosswinds (see also “How To Calculate Crosswind Component“). 

Taking Off In A Taildragger

Taildraggers require more space than conventional airplanes. That is why they usually take off from a ramp. In order to take off, you need to taxi slowly until you reach the end of the runway.

When you are ready, push the throttle forward and accelerate quickly. Don’t forget to apply the brakes if needed.

Landing In A Taildragger

When landing, you need to slow down and use the rudder to turn around. Then, you must make sure that you are facing straight ahead.

When you feel comfortable, push the throttle forward again and continue your flight.

5 Tips For Landing A Taildragger

To help you land safely, here are five tips that might come handy:

1. Learn How To Land A Taildragger

It is important to learn how to land a Taildragger. Otherwise, you may crash.

2. Be Patient

It takes time to master the art of landing a taildragger and to become familiar with it.

3. Practice

Practice often. Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it does make the master. Keep trying, you will get there. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

4. Watch Out For Obstacles

Be careful when taking off or landing on uneven surfaces, these planes are prone to bouncing enough as it is.

5. Know The Limitations

Taildraggers cannot be flown at night, or at least it is ill-advised to do so.

To Conclude

Taildraggers are brilliant aerial performers, just like any other aircraft, however on the ground they are a bit trickier, and are not as easy to use. Do research and have lessons before you try to fly them. 

Do not be afraid of their little quirks, with time, you learn to love them! 

Jacob Stern
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