Landing tail low?

Discussion in 'Pilot Training' started by alaskan9974, Apr 13, 2021.

  1. alaskan9974

    alaskan9974 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Landing tail low vs tail first? I get mixed messages, first cfi I flew with said no to both. Second one I flew with more said as long as I don’t hit the tail too hard it’ll be ok.
     
  2. Tarheelpilot

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    Depends.
     
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  3. Greg Bockelman

    Greg Bockelman Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Are we talking Taildraggers? If you are trying to do three point landings, touching down SLIGHTLY tail first will reduce the chance of a bounce because the angle of attack will DECREASE when the mains touch down. Tail low the opposite occurs. If your descent rate isn’t just right when the mains touch, the tail will come down increasing the angle of attack and you are flying again.
     
  4. Dana

    Dana Pattern Altitude

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    My best landings in my Hatz are when I touch tailwheel first.
     
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  5. Tools

    Tools Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Really getting in the weeds on this, and as mentioned, it depends...

    how is the plane designed? Old things like Waco’s frequently sit at a TRUE stalled angle of attack. Tail first is difficult and precariously close to deep stall, so somewhat dicey. A glastar sits kinda flat. Even tail first and the resulting decrease in angle of attack can be thwarted by ripping the stick back at touchdown like I do in my Piet, and off you go bouncing down the runway... or so I’m told...

    Is it gusty, or calm? What’s your experience level and proficiency in that plane?

    quite generally, and on grass in nice conditions, I just kinda like a tailwheel touching first.

    Tools
     
  6. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner Final Approach

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    I avoided tail-first, simply because I’ve had too many tailwheel break over the years. My preference is a tail-low wheel landing. Fairly low energy, still controllable. Some airplanes do better with some techniques than others.

    I do know pilots/instructors who don’t like tail-low landings for whatever reason, but like I told my brother, if you ask five taildragger pilots you’ll get six different answers. I’m the only one who’s right. ;)
     
  7. FastEddieB

    FastEddieB Touchdown! Greaser!

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    In many hours of teaching tailwheel transition courses in Citabrias I found that, conditions permitting, the very best landings - or at least the least exciting - had the tailwheel rolling on slightly first, with the mains dropping on a second or so later. I tried to instill in my students having this as the goal, feeling for the runway with the tailwheel, and still have this mental image on the now rare occasion I get to fly a tailwheel.

    Personally, I found with all the gear touching together, the plane felt more “skittery” for a few seconds as the wings still had some lift to dissipate, and those few seconds of nervousness were where students could get behind the plane and begin to swerve. Tailwheel first felt more like the airplane was done flying, and hence easier.
     
  8. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner Final Approach

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    At one time I could drag the tailwheel of my Maule for a couple thousand feet and then go around...probably made up for the care I gave it otherwise. :rolleyes:
     
  9. ebetancourt

    ebetancourt Line Up and Wait

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    Very few taildraggers sit at a true stall angle on the ground. A full stall landing (boundary layer separation) will result in the tail wheel touching first. A three point landing is a reduction in lift but not a full stall. Taildraggers are not all the same and no two landings are under the exact same conditions. I am lucky enough to fly two airplanes regularly. The Citabria I jokingly refer to as an "almost taildragger" since it so easy to land. I do wheel landings, three-point and full stall landings in it based on my mood more than anything. Then there is the Waco Taperwing. Ground handling is horrible. I always try for a full stall landing so that it is as slow as I can get it before touchdown. I'm also frequently landing it on a relatively short strip. (For comparison, it stalls about 20mph faster than it's identical Straightwing littermate.)

    Airplanes with strong wing drop tendencies are not good candidates for full stall or even three-point landings. An airplane that quits flying too early and too high does not have a relative wind parallel to the ground, so it can be in full stall in any position.

    My opinions, take them with a grain of salt.
     
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  10. GRG55

    GRG55 Final Approach

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    I notice this more on the grass, but as a comparatively low time tailwheel pilot (compared to a lot of you folks here!) I notice the "slightly first with the tailwheel" landings tend to pull and line the airplane up straight if there's any remaining hint of a crab in a crosswind, before the mains touch.
     
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  11. Juliet Hotel

    Juliet Hotel Pattern Altitude

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    I may be misunderstanding the question but I was always of the opinion that you pick your landing type and you do that. If you're going to 3-point it, you 3-point it which means the goal is that all 3 touch at the same time or within 1/2 a second of each other. If you're going to wheel it on, you wheel it on which usually means the tail is up at something close to normal flight attitude. Tail low is what happens when pilots aren't willing to commit to either landing type so they're just bringing it in and letting the plane decide what kind of landing it wants to do.
     
  12. Dan Thomas

    Dan Thomas Final Approach

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    No. Wheel landings are often deliberately tail-low in order to get a low touchdown speed, and the tail is raised a bit to reduce the AoA and therefore the lift after the mains touch. There is nothing wrong with that at all; one just learns to do it. It's the preferred way to reduce the wear and tear on that tailwheel. That tiny tire spins at awesome speeds, meaning accelerated wear, and shimmy is more likely at those speeds, too. Shimmy breaks stuff. Keeping that wheel off until the airplane slows saves money.

    Must remember that a "normal flight attitude" also means normal flight speeds. The relationship between angle of attack and airspeed is one that so many pilots seem completely unaware of, and it causes some of them considerable grief in landings. The PPL training is rather poor these days.

    I made a wooden jig to measure the actual chordline angle in ground attitude on a Citabria. It's 12 degrees. The means that in the flare, parallel to the runway surface, the AoA is 12 degrees, a long way from its stall angle of 17 degrees. If an airplane sat at stall angle in the three-point attitude it would stand out like a sore thumb. You'd sure notice it.
     
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  13. alaskan9974

    alaskan9974 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I mainly fly a 170, I found my shortest landings are nose high tail touching just before the wings stall and drops the mains. I’ve heard it both ways, it’s harder on the tail, but I am not dragging it in any distance on the tail just plopping it in as (un)gracefully as spring gear will let ya.

    I usually land tail low on good surfaces like gravel or ice but for me it seems easier to stop without braking much on surfaces like sandbars landing tail first.
     
  14. luvflyin

    luvflyin Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    Zero tail wheel time here but I was thinking that when all the talk about angle of attack was going on. It would act like the feathers on an arrow. Or a like a caster.
     
  15. texasclouds

    texasclouds Cleared for Takeoff

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    Either works for me.
     
  16. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner Final Approach

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    Yup...drag behind the CG reduces the tendency for the CG to pass the mains.
    Tail low is also what happens when a pilot wants to do a wheel landing as slowly as possible.
     
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  17. Juliet Hotel

    Juliet Hotel Pattern Altitude

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    Which can be a recipe for disaster in certain airplanes.
     
  18. GRG55

    GRG55 Final Approach

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    ^^^ This.

    I do wheel landings tail low, but not the same attitude as a 3-point, of course. Once the mains touch the stick goes forward to reduce the AOA and plant the mains, and only after that does the tail come down. That's the way I was taught, and it seems to work. For me.
     
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  19. mondtster

    mondtster En-Route

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    Which is why there is almost universal agreement in this thread that it depends on the airplane and circumstances.
     
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  20. midwestpa24

    midwestpa24 En-Route

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    I fly tailwheels. Sometimes I wheel land, sometimes I go tail low, sometimes I three point. Sometimes a botched wheel landing turns into a three point. All have a place, pro's and con's. Some aircraft prefer or require a certain landing, some don't care. There is no one size fits all to tailwheel landings. A good pilot can do all of the above when the situation requires.
     
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  21. Tarheelpilot

    Tarheelpilot En-Route

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    What you describe was my preferred landing technique in the spray planes. Especially the big ones.
     
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  22. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner Final Approach

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    So can tail high...so can 3-point...so can full stall...not being stupid is theoretically part of being a pilot.
     
  23. midwestpa24

    midwestpa24 En-Route

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    Where is that in the PTS/ACS? :rofl:
     
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  24. Dan Thomas

    Dan Thomas Final Approach

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    It's not. It's in the physics textbooks.
     
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  25. Dan Thomas

    Dan Thomas Final Approach

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    Give us an example, please.
     
  26. ebetancourt

    ebetancourt Line Up and Wait

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    Trying to understand the point. The discussion is tailwheel low wheel landings. Is it the low airspeed or the attitude that presents the possibility of disaster?
     
  27. ebetancourt

    ebetancourt Line Up and Wait

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    There seems to be much confusion about this point. Much of it is caused by pilots referring to three point landings as "full stall." There really are three types of landings in a taildragger - wheel, three point, and full stall. But there are only two commonly used names. Even full stall is not quite correct since we rarely get full boundary layer separation. Ground effect and a desire to maintain control mean we get close but don't quite get to that critical angle.

    I think there were a very few WWI era biplanes that were at or near the stall in three point.
     
  28. midwestpa24

    midwestpa24 En-Route

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    Depends on the model, but in some airplanes certain AOA can cause the wing or windmilling props to blank the airfoil over the tail potentially causing loss of control. I think I had heard that about the Twin Beech in a three point attitude, but I don't recall. I know I've been told three point landings in a DC-3 can cause structural damage to the fuselage.
     
  29. Dan Thomas

    Dan Thomas Final Approach

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    We hardly even get close. This is borne out by the many taildraggers that can lift off and fly along the runway, tail on the runway and the mains well up off the runway. It we were close to the stall in the three-point attitude, this would hardly be possible.
     
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  30. Dana

    Dana Pattern Altitude

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    If your flight path was angled downward instead of horizontal at the instant of 3 point touchdown, you could be stalled.
     
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  31. ebetancourt

    ebetancourt Line Up and Wait

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    Yep. It's all about relative wind.
     
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  32. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner Final Approach

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    Prior to the D models, the Staggerwing stalled in an attitude with the tail higher than the mains...landing would increase the AOA beyond stall, so it wouldn’t get airborne again.


    I used to get an accelerated stall in my Maule when rounding out after coming in steep over the trees. Had to roll it up on the mains to keep it on the ground, though. Same with the Pawnee dragging 200 ft of rope over the fence.
     
  33. Dan Thomas

    Dan Thomas Final Approach

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    Even then it's usually just sink. I've had students do it, flaring too high and levelling off three feet up, and then it slams down hard but the stall warning never says anything. The stall-proof Ercoupes were sometimes wrecked just this way; get them slow and they'd pancake on and get busted up. They didn't need to stall to have an accident.

    To get the relative wind to add say, another five degrees to the AoA, taking our hypothetical 12-degree three-point Citabria up to stall at 17 degrees, we'd need to fall three feet in 33 feet. That's a steep fall. The airplane itself is 22 feet long, so in one and a half airplane lengths you have to drop three feet. Three feet is a pretty big drop. And we'd expect the nose to come down rather suddenly. The nose falls in the stall.

    How many here have done slow flight training? Nose way high, stall warning howling, power set to maintain altitude: the relative wind is level with the ground, yet the airplane is in an attitude NEVER seen during landing.
     
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  34. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner Final Approach

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    I dunno...11:1 is pretty close to the best glide ratio of most light singles. That’s not a “steep fall”, that’s a touchdown 550 feet downfield from over a 50-foot obstacle with no round out or flare...probably worth comparing to the numbers in your performance charts.

    How many here understand that airflow from the prop providing thrust affects slow flight and stall so they look different than power off?
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2021
  35. Dan Thomas

    Dan Thomas Final Approach

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    The airflow over the wing roots does help a bit, but it makes no difference to the rest of the wing. You can do a power-off stall, raising the nose at a rate making sure the altimeter doesn't budge, and the nose is still way high when it lets go.
     
  36. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner Final Approach

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    What’s the pitch attitude when it “lets go” on landing?

    I guess I’m confused as to the relevance of the slow flight statement...if you never see a “stall attitude” on landing, it simply means you’re never doing a full stall landing.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2021
  37. Dan Thomas

    Dan Thomas Final Approach

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    The slow flight thing demonstrates what a stall attitude might be in the flare. It's very steep, and the geometry of the airplane won't permit it without striking the tail with the mains still a long way up.

    The sudden drop after a too-high flare that I consider sink rather than a stall is often at a normal landing attitude, sometimes even fairly flat. The nose doesn't even begin to fall as the airplane drops, which tells me that it wasn't a stall. And as an instructor I occasionally saw it, and the stall horn didn't sound either. It should have, if the wing was stalling.

    In any case, it's not a good way to land an airplane.
     
  38. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner Final Approach

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    That is often the case, as has been previously stated in the thread.
    That would be an entirely different discussion, but in this context, it simply means you haven’t been doing full stall landings.
     
  39. Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe

    Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Put tufts of yarn on the wing. That will tell you if you are stalled or not.
     
  40. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner Final Approach

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    How many of the tufts need to be turbulent before you’re “stalled”?