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#7 Taildragger or Tailwagger?

The Tailwheeler’s Journal #7
Tail dragger or tail wagger?
Today we’re going to see if we can deal with a bad habit that virtually all of us develop: over compensation with rudder. We’ll also deal with the drawbacks of tailwheel steering.
Most of us get spring-loaded to the paddle position when we arrive at short final. We expect that airplane to swap ends on us so we are determined to stop any heading excursions with our rudder. After touchdown, and at the first sign of a swing to one side, we get on that opposite rudder. Lots of times we use it all. When the airplane stops that pesky uncommanded turn in one direction it then does what we told it to: It starts turning in the other direction. Then the process repeats itself and we end up zig-zagging down the runway.
It’s pretty easy to fix this common fault. Try simply applying half the rudder that you would normally use. I word of warning here: The control of uncommanded turns depends just as much on the timing of the rudder input as it does on the amount of rudder used. So use half of the rudder, but use it NOW. And be prepared to use more if it’s absolutely necessary.
Tailwheel steering is a nice feature of most tailwheels. With the steering arms attached to the rudder by chains and springs, movement of the rudder also moves the tailwheel so that turns on the ground are easier to accomplish. But we tend to forget that we’re also moving the tailwheel when we’re in the air. So what if we are holding rudder to land in a crosswind? When the cocked off rudder contacts the ground, it commands a turn that must be immediately countered with opposite rudder. If you want to eliminate that pesky turn-at-touchdown, learn to neutralize your rudder at the moment of touchdown.
Takeoffs are another opportunity for lots of tail-wagging. Try to restrain yourself. Take a look at the section on “The One-Footed Takeoff” in “Brian’s Flying Book. It’s a fun drill.
You can be a perfectly competent tailwheel pilot while wagging your tail on every takeoff and landing. But if you want to refine your technique, try restraining your rudder input and see how this works.
Now watch somebody run off the runway in a cloud of groundloop dust and blame it on that danged “Tailwheeler’s Journal”, which suggested less rudder!
Happy Swooping!
Brian

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