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Why Tailwheel Aircraft are hard to fly but totally worth it!

Posted by Brendan OMara

In this article we will focus on why some pilots find tailwheel aircrafts hard to fly and why flying tailwheel aircrafts is totally worth the effort.  Let’s begin with the reasons why some pilots have the notion that tailwheel aircrafts are difficult to learn.

 The illusive taildragger?  The belief that tailwheel planes are hard to fly is mainly held by pilots who have only trained with nosewheel aircraft and they originated because of the few differences with operating a tailwheel aircraft versus a nosewheel aircraft. These differences can be summed up in on ground operations such as taxing and landing. The center of gravity of the tailwheel aircraft is located behind the main landing gear and turning on the ground also requires the pilot to take action to cease this turn. This operation may seem simple but for the nosewheel pilot this is the opposite because the tailwheel aircraft has its center of gravity ahead of the main landing gear and so it requires the pilot to take action to continue a turn on the ground rather than to stop one. Another reason why tailwheel aircrafts seem difficult to fly is because upon landing the pilot has to be alert when the aircraft touches ground because the aircraft might start to swerve and will not correct itself. The pilot must be on alert and take measures to correct this.

With all that said the truth of the matter is that tailwheel aircrafts are not harder to fly than nosewheel aircrafts. The difference is that the tailwheel will not tolerate sloppy controls when on the ground but their operations in air are the same as nosewheel aircrafts. The nosewheel type aircraft will tolerate more sloppy flying upon contact with the runway and let you get by with improper use of flight controls such as the rudder and ailerons.

Then should I fly a tailwheel aircraft?  With all the seeming hardships that come with taildraggers you will probably ask the question ‘Why should I fly a tailwheel aircraft when the nosewheel seems easier to operate?’  Well the answers to your question are numerous. First of all tailwheel aircrafts are cheaper to buy and maintain as opposed to nosewheels. Another reason is that tailwheel aircrafts have a huge advantage when launching from short fields. The tailwheel aircraft is less likely to get stuck in a soupy taxiway or field, thus reducing the odds of nosing over. This makes them suitable for bush flying. Most aerobatic aircrafts are also taildraggers and so it is necessary to learn to fly tailwheel if you plan to have a career in aerobatics. The unforgiving nature of taildraggers for improper flight controls also makes them suitable to practice perfecting your landing in any type of aircraft. With all that said if you are willing to learn about flying tailwheel aircrafts or improve on your skills then we recommend that you review Tailwheel 101 by Damian DelGaizo and Tailwheel 201: Beyond the Basics, both are amazing DVD’s to use for early instruction and as training aid to be used with direction from your Certified Flight Instructor. Now go out there and learn to fly tailwheel!