Tailwheel tips?

Discussion in 'Pilot Training' started by LoLPilot, Aug 3, 2018.

  1. LoLPilot

    LoLPilot Line Up and Wait

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    I'm starting my tailwheel endorsement tomorrow and I'll be flying an ACA Super Decathlon for the first time. The instructor I'm flying with is a very accomplished acro pilot and he is a very nice gentleman. It's his personal airplane that he teaches the tailwheel students in and while I flew with him once before in a 172 during my checkride prep, I want to make a good "first impression" as his tailwheel student.

    Any tips for someone about to fly a taildragger for the first time? I am super excited.
     
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  2. SkyDog58

    SkyDog58 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Get dem feet amovin’.
     
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  3. Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe

    Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    keep it straight
    nothing on the panel will help you keep it straight, so don't even look. (look at oil pressure before you roll out, forget about all that "airspeed alive" and "rotate" nonsense.)
     
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  4. timwinters

    timwinters Ejection Handle Pulled PoA Supporter

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    Happy feet!
     
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  5. Bill Watson

    Bill Watson En-Route

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    Before ‘doing’ anything like starting to taxi, beginning the the takeoff roll, approaching the airport, or entering short final... check the wind. Figure out the direction and speed and think about how you’ll react to it. Then recheck it when you do the next thing.

    Don’t forget to check before the takeoff roll. Did I say that already?


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  6. Dan Thomas

    Dan Thomas Final Approach

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    No tips. Just pay attention to the instructor.
     
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  7. SkyDog58

    SkyDog58 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Sounds like a tip.
     
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  8. BillTIZ

    BillTIZ Final Approach

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    Keep the tail wheel centered behind you. Don’t let it pass and try to lead.
     
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  9. LoLPilot

    LoLPilot Line Up and Wait

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    I've heard about looping tendencies if you're uncoordinated on landing. Towards the end of my PPL I tried to pretend that the 172 was a 170 on the ground and be extra careful with the rudder and wind controls.
     
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  10. BillTIZ

    BillTIZ Final Approach

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    I’ve seen ground loops happen at taxi speed. Just takes a little bit on inattention and then over reaction.
     
  11. Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe

    Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    What do you mean by "uncoordinated"? You need to be pointed straight down the runway - if there is a crosswind, then you are going to be all cattywompus with the controls - rudder keeping you lined up and opposite aileron to keep from sliding sideways. Whatever it takes to keep pointed and tracking down the runway.
     
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  12. LoLPilot

    LoLPilot Line Up and Wait

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    I'm in the middle of a workout and meant "nose pointed in direction of travel."
     
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  13. RyanShort1

    RyanShort1 En-Route

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    Relax and listen to the instructor. Look down the runway as far as you can and learn to use your peripheral vision.
     
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  14. Stewartb

    Stewartb Final Approach

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    Make sure to square up on the center line prior to takeoff. By that I mean make sure the tailwheel is tracking straight so you won't begin your experience by chasing the rudder.
     
  15. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner Final Approach

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    This.
     
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  16. mscard88

    mscard88 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Eat a banana before going up. That way if you puke the banana will taste the same as it did when you ate it.

    Anyone mention keep the stick back and track straight down the runway. Oh and it ain't over til the motor is stopped and she's tied down.
     
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  17. James331

    James331 Ejection Handle Pulled

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    Don’t fixate right I front of the place, look at the infinity point.

    Don’t do the “happy feet” thing, just small corrections but be ready for a counter correction, that whole every object in motion bit.

    Don’t put the stick forward for a 2 point, more over just keep flying level to the horizon until the tail starts to loose authority than let it come down.

    Stay off the brakes
     
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  18. Bill Watson

    Bill Watson En-Route

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    I saw the aftermath of a groundloop that appeared to total a Citabria (perhaps a Scout) towplane. It was doing a fast taxi on grass. I wouldn’t have believed one could do that much damage in a slow groundloop... or maybe it was a fast groundloop.

    Sorry for the thread creep.


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk Pro
     
  19. denverpilot

    denverpilot Tied Down PoA Supporter

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    Lots of good advice so far.

    I’ll add: Don’t feel annoyed or insulted when a rudder pedal drops out from under your foot because the instructor slammed it to the floor.

    He saw the ground loop coming before you did. :)

    Seriously. I was kinda annoyed my first few landings in a taildragger that the instructor kept messing with the pedals. Once he got me partially in the groove of it, he let one of the directional excursions that looks absolutely tiny at first, continue a bit longer...

    ... and we were headed for the side of the runway.

    Oh! You mean it’ll go astray that easily?! Okay I get it now. Move feet. Fast. Even if you have to wiggle the ass end of the airplane back and forth until you figure out how MUCH to push, STOP all directional changes IMMEDIATELY


    It ended with him slapping that pedal to the floor again and even using a very tiny but perfect amount of brake to not slide the tire on that side to help out, and a tiny blast of engine power to give the rudder a hand.

    That was in the Husky years and years ago. I never forgot him purposefully letting us head for the ditch for what felt like only a split second at the time.

    When I flew the Citabria for the perfunctory (because I already had plenty of spins under my belt) spin endorsement for the CFI, I enjoyed both remembering to move my feet QUICKLY to stop any directional changes rolling out, and also a “Hey, not bad!” from the back seat.

    I should go finish a tailwheel endorsement. Just no time and nothing I can really do with it (other than have better feet, and that’s not a bad thing) and having to rent the airplane.

    They do have a Decathlon Xtreme and it looks like a lot of fun... I’m just worried it will turn into another expensive addiction. :)
     
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  20. djpacro

    djpacro Pre-Flight

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  21. Fearless Tower

    Fearless Tower Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Best advice so far.

    Just keep looking outside the airplane and do what it takes to keep it straight. Don’t just move your feet because people tell you to keep moving you feet. Be deliberate about it. You’ll probably do a lot of overcorrecting at first, but be patient with yourself. You’ll get better. You’ll find that when learning tailwheel ‘jab and release’ with rudder input works better than applying rudder and holding it too long. The more you fly tailwheel, the better you will get at anticipating how much rudder you need and for how long.

    It’s good to think about those aileron inputs for different wind conditions. Lack of aileron bites many.
     
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  22. LoLPilot

    LoLPilot Line Up and Wait

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    Thanks guys! I'll check out the reading material while I'm having breakfast and let you all know how it goes!
     
  23. Ryanb

    Ryanb Administrator Management Council Member PoA Supporter

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    Why are you on POA during the middle of a workout? Sheesh, put the phone down dude!
     
  24. Lachlan

    Lachlan En-Route

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    Why? It’s leg day. :)
     
  25. Goornogo

    Goornogo Filing Flight Plan

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    After being out for over 20 years, I thought a TW endorsement would be a great way to re-learn basic stick and rudder. Working in a very light PA18-150 (aka, the kite) I just finished hour nine and will likely finish up in a week or so after some wheel landing work. I have to say that when I started, I thought this may be a mistake, by hour three, I wondered, why did I believe everything I read about this making you a better pilot? At some point during hour four it clicked and I started to loosen up and got the lead out of my feet after which I started to feel much better. Then the gusty x-wind work began, even more fun! Big confidence boost. As others have said, regardless of everything else, first and foremost, KEEP IT STRAIGHT! Otherwise, keep the stick back, (except when you don't...lol), relax, loosen up and lighten up on the controls, don't be too hard on yourself, and listen to the instructor. Stick (no pun intended) with it and have fun!
     
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  26. zaitcev

    zaitcev En-Route

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    The hardest part for me was keeping it low enough over the runway when landing. In a tricycle gear airplane I tended to round out too high and then let it settle while still too fast. It is a lazy way to make acceptably smooth touchdowns. In a tailwheel airplane it's a recipe for pitch PIO.

    The second hardest part was transitioning to brakes. As soon as I try to slow down, the airplane starts to weave as I reposition feet from a safe position. It's worse with heel brakes, but toe brakes give me trouble too. I never, ever use brakes with tailwheel in the air. Fortunately, in my airplane brakes are not very effective and it's basically impossible to stand it on its nose.
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2018
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  27. LoLPilot

    LoLPilot Line Up and Wait

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    Well I enjoyed it a lot! The Decathlon felt a LOT different than a 172 and I spent the first 15 minutes of airwork brutally overcontrolling it. Fortunately my instructorsaid there was nothing I could do to make him sick. Once I got the hang of the way the controls felt I loved the Decathlon. What a plane! He even demonstrated a barrel roll for me and I LOVED it!

    Landing will take some time to get used to but I'm excited to fly it again.
     
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  28. DFH65

    DFH65 Pattern Altitude

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    Like most things aviation it isn't as scary or hard as people make it out to be. Relax. As mentioned keep it straight above all else. You can be fast, you can be slow you can bounce it you can do a lot of things but keep it straight. Make small corrections RIGHT AWAY don't wait to see what it is going to do if you do you will see what it is going to do.
     
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  29. Ken Ibold

    Ken Ibold Final Approach

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    Another thing to do at some point is learn to fly it from the back seat. Totally different view - not nearly as much over the nose visibility- and the slip/skid deviations in the seat of the pants is even more pronounced. I my experience, it was helpful in further refining the butt-to-feet connection.

    Plus it got me ready to transition to the Pitts, which was the goal all along.
     
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  30. champ driver

    champ driver Line Up and Wait

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    I think that one of the best instructors/aviation writers around is Budd Davisson. He teaches in his Pitts at Scottsdale AZ and write articles for numerous magazines. He can describe things in plain language with out all the fluff.

    Lots of good advice from other posters, but one thing that hasn't been covered is, after touchdown, if the plane is drifting or swerving slightly towards the side of the runway.
    Stop the drift first, there's usually no need to get back on the centerline immediately. So don't start another swerve the opposite direction trying to get back there.
    If... things are under control, then start getting back towards the center.

    Here's a link from Budd writings about tailwheels.

    http://www.airbum.com/articles/ArticleTailwheelTraining.html



     
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  31. N3368K

    N3368K Cleared for Takeoff

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    New tailwheel pilots should always taxi out onto the runway, stop, then taxi forward slight to verify the tailwheel is indeed straight, stop and then begin takeoff. It sounds long, but takes a few seconds. It sets you up for a straight start. The swerves will come soon enough. No reason to start off behind the curve.

    I made the following video few years back to show rudder movement during all phases of flight. Watch first two minutes to see taxi/takeoff. Note, I did not do the stop, straighten tailwheel, stop and go. Also note how much opposite rudder and how long it took to counter the inertia of the turn. After that, small rudder movements, not huge jabs.

    Small corrections early are far better than large ones late. Also don’t “fan the rudder” (keep your feet moving). Just enough to keep it straight work. You will over control it at first. Also, even the best taildragger pilots will occasionally swerve some. The level of perfection you’re seeking, at least at first, is safety and a reusable airplane. Only a bunch of practice will get you to the next level...in a few hundred hours.




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    Last edited: Aug 5, 2018
  32. Shepherd

    Shepherd En-Route

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    What he said.

    What he said, also.

    Tailwheel is seat of the pants. You REALLY need to learn to feel the airplane with your backside.
    You young'uns are always joking about "butt dialing".
    That's exactly what flying tailwheel is all about. "Butt dialing" your plane on the ground and in the air.
     
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  33. RoscoeT

    RoscoeT Pattern Altitude

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    Yep, I hate the term "happy feet" - it implies the pilot should be quickly flapping the rudder around whether they need to or not. Pilots who learned in trikes do often have trouble waking their feet up, but leave the thing alone when it's rolling straight and needs no input. When it does, make it as small as possible - only what's needed, then let it roll straight by itself again. Lots of tailwheel pilots look like they're trying to propel a pedal car at top speed. If you watch a skilled and smooth tailwheel pilot, the rudder moves very little - it can even be nearly imperceptible. Something to strive for...
     
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  34. j1b3h0

    j1b3h0 Line Up and Wait

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    When teaching tail wheel flying I try to get as much time as possible at 10ft. above the runway or less. Sometimes I’ll have my student drive down the runway with the tail in the air at about 35-40mph - “put your left main tire on the centerline,...now put your right tire on it”. Sometimes I’ll take the aircraft on very short final and line up over the runway lights at about 5ft, and give my student the controls and have him turn back to the centerline and land. Sometimes, after landing, I’ll swerve the airplane to the side, really close to the edge of the runway, (once again at 35-40) and have my student put it back on the centerline. I’ll have them on the rudder pedals, steering while I move the ailerons from stop to stop. The whole idea is for my student to develop the muscle memory and those quick feet necessary to safely FIX THEIR OWN MISTAKES! It’s not until I’ve seen them make lots of mistakes,...and fix them, that I have any confidence in them, and they in themselves. The tricky part is being able to let your student flirt with the edge of control - without crossing it. Easy in a Citabria, a lot more sporty in something more diabolical.
     
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  35. LoLPilot

    LoLPilot Line Up and Wait

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    He let me get a nice swerve going after a landing. The more I tried to correct it the worse it got til all of a sudden he said "my plane" and had it under control in a few seconds. He said the same thing - he could tell when a student had gotten in over their heads but wanted to let us get there before he took back over.
     
  36. GeorgeC

    GeorgeC Administrator Management Council Member PoA Supporter

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    In such a situation, what in your opinion is the proper corrective action? Asking for a friend.
     
  37. midwestpa24

    midwestpa24 Pattern Altitude

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    I'd slip it over. Always keep the nose pointed at the end of the runway and use the ailerons to control lateral movement.
     
  38. steingar

    steingar Taxi to Parking

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    Says me ignore what anyone says here and do what your CFI tells you.
     
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  39. Greg Bockelman

    Greg Bockelman Administrator Management Council Member

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    Yeah, but sometimes CFIs are just plane wrong. ;)
     
  40. N3368K

    N3368K Cleared for Takeoff

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    And sometimes not just any t/w endorsed CFI is really equipped to be teaching it. :D

    The ATP who bought my Swift asked me to fly with him a couple of hours to check him out. First couple of landings I had to take and corral it (it had right side brakes added). He soon caught on and has done fine since. Sometimes even a mere PPL with a bunch of t/w hours can help out. :D
     
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