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How to Fly and Teach in a Tailwheel Airplane


Why fly a tailwheel airplane? 

  1. Unique skill. 

  2. Built for off-roading. 

  3. Tandems build solid attitude power flying. 

  1. Disadvantages. 

    1. Harder to maneuver on the ground.

    2. The backseat person can’t see very well on the ground.

    3. The backseat can’t see the flight instruments. 

    4. It is more difficult to control with wind on the ground.

    5. The potential of a ground loop. 

  2. Left turning tendency on takeoff - Gyroscopic precession when pushing the tail up. 

  3. Larger ailerons produce more adverse yaw in some planes. 

  4. The center of gravity is typically behind the main wheels. This leads to control problems if side loading is present. 

  5. Cockpit organization is more important. Items in the back may not be reachable in flight. 

  6. Stick vs control wheel. Stir the chili for free and correct movement. 

  7. It’s not the ideal IFR platform, especially in tandems, because it lacks panel space. 

  8. Fabric is lighter and cheaper but please don’t smoke. 

  9. The prop sits higher from the ground, so it is better for grass, dirt, etc. 

  10. Three-point landings cause all three wheels to touch down at the same time at the stall speed. After contacting the ground, pull the stick back to keep the airplane from bouncing and flying again. 

  11. In a wheel landing, the left and right tires contact the ground before the tailwheel at a higher speed than the stall speed. This gives better crosswind control and is also more suited for heavier airplanes. The tailwheel comes down on its own after speed dissipates. 


  1. Be sure you can reach the rudder pedals and brakes.

  2. Take something to push the mixture if they pull it out and panic. 

  3. Use your peripheral vision when landing. Look left and right to detect your location relative to the centerline/center of the landing area. 

  4. When coming out of a forward slip, the airspeed increases significantly. 

  5. Ensure the stick can be moved fully forward and isn’t restricted by the front seat back. 

  6. Guard the stick in wheel landings. Avoid raiding the rail above what is parallel to the runway. 

  7. Some airplanes stall with little notice, such as the Globe Swift and Pitts S1 and 2. These airplanes should be wheel-landed. 

Training and Authorization

  1. 61.31(I) specifies the training requirements. 

  2. Note. If the pilot has logged PIC time in a tailwheel airplane before April 15, 1991. 

  3. AC 61-65H contains the endorsement. A.71. 

  4. No specified time. 

  5. Wheel landings must be taught and demonstrated if the plane is capable.

Associated Resources
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