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#235 The Tailwheel Town Landing


Written in March, 2019


Why do you suppose that Acme Grads land the way they do?  They make high, wide downwinds, then keep the power in and the flaps down while they fly a huge pattern that ends at some point on the runway.  And while the acme grad is flying that ridiculously huge pattern, the Tailwheel Town grad is making a low, tight pattern, chopping the power abeam the numbers or point of intended touchdown and not extending his flaps until he can make the point of intended landing with them.  Then he extends them in order to slow the airplane so that it contacts the ground just as slowly as it can go.

The Tailwheel Town approach at Sisters.  Through the trees and into a landing in a turn.  (The Lansburgh Collection, Photo by Walt Lasecki)

And while we are on the subject of flaps, they can be used to extend the glide, but only if they have been saved until the plane is in ground effect. If they are extended before that, all they will do is allow the plane to be flown slowly.

Her short approach is followed by a three-point landing with no power, as Angela brings the PA12 in after her “Tailwheel Town Approach”.  (The Lansburgh Collection, photo by Walt Lasecki)

The Acme grad was taught that “this is how it is done”.  The Tailwheel Town grad is taught to always ask “Why”. There may be a lot of answers as to why the Acme Grads’ fly the way they do.  Most of the time it’s because their flight instructor, about 150 hours before, was taught to do it that way.  He’s also learned that it’s easier at first to do it that way..  It’s more difficult to do it the Tailwheel Town way…. But it’s a helluva lot more efficient.  And one of my early teachers explained to me that the Tailwheel town pilot is always practicing for that time that the engine may quit…. Which it may never do. But the bottom line is that the tailwheel town pilot, because he practices the difficult things, can fly significantly better than the Acme Grad.

For you see, doing things the Tailwheel Town way MAY be a little more difficult at first, but it results in a pilot with more skill.  And, at tailwheel Town,  we figger that’s kind of important.

Happy Swooping,

Brian Lansburgh

1 comment to #235 The Tailwheel Town Landing

  • Rich Woods

    Hey Brian…….

    What happened with the PA-12 incident?? Seems to me that you could have made an awesome learning moment out of what occurred instead of sweeping that unfortunate situation under the rug with no explanation.

    With all due respect, I am new to the website so I could have missed out on what happened.

    I’ve got 7 hrs. solo now in my recently acquired Piper J-3. My goal is to graduate from the Acme Grad class to the more lofty level of Tailwheel Town class. The stuff you teach inspires me to keep trying to become a better pilot. Old folk like me @ 72 can still learn..!

    Oh yeah……I got my Tailwheel Town hat a couple of days ago too. Thanks!! Very cool!

    There surely must be lessons learned from the PA-12 incident. Don’t miss out on a teachable moment. A critique of what happened would be invaluable to someone like me & probably to many of your Tailwheel Town devotees.

    Thanks in advance……

    Rich woods

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