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Airplane Flying Handbook
Transition to Tailwheel Airplanes

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Airplane Flying Handbook


Table of Contents

Chapter 1,Introduction to Flight Training
Chapter 2,Ground Operations
Chapter 3,Basic Flight Maneuvers
Chapter 4, Slow Flight, Stalls, and Spins
Chapter 5, Takeoff and Departure Climbs
Chapter 6, Ground Reference Maneuvers
Chapter 7, Airport Traffic Patterns
Chapter 8, Approaches and Landings
Chapter 9, Performance Maneuvers
Chapter 10, Night Operations
Chapter 11,Transition to Complex Airplanes
Chapter 12, Transition to Multiengine Airplanes
Chapter 13,Transition to Tailwheel Airplanes
Chapter 14, Transition to Turbo-propeller Powered Airplanes
Chapter 15,Transition to Jet Powered Airplanes
Chapter 16,Emergency Procedures



Transition to Tailwheel Airplanes


Tailwheel airplanes are often referred to as
conventional gear airplanes. Due to their design and
structure, tailwheel airplanes exhibit operational and
handling characteristics that are different from those of
tricycle gear airplanes. Tailwheel airplanes are not
necessarily more difficult to takeoff, land, and/or taxi
than tricycle gear airplanes; in fact under certain
conditions, they may even handle with less difficulty.
This chapter will focus on the operational differences
that occur during ground operations, takeoffs, and


The main landing gear forms the principal support of
the airplane on the ground. The tailwheel also supports
the airplane, but steering and directional control are its
primary functions. With the tailwheel-type airplane, the
two main struts are attached to the airplane slightly
ahead of the airplane's center of gravity (CG).

The rudder pedals are the primary directional controls
while taxiing. Steering with the pedals may be
accomplished through the forces of airflow or propeller
slipstream acting on the rudder surface, or through a
mechanical linkage to the steerable tailwheel. Initially,
the pilot should taxi with the heels of the feet resting on
the cockpit floor and the balls of the feet on the bottom
of the rudder pedals. The feet should be slid up onto the
brake pedals only when it is necessary to depress the
brakes. This permits the simultaneous application of
rudder and brake whenever needed. Some models of
tailwheel airplanes are equipped with heel brakes rather
than toe brakes. In either configuration the brakes are
used primarily to stop the airplane at a desired point, to
slow the airplane, or as an aid in making a sharp
controlled turn. Whenever used, they must be applied
smoothly, evenly, and cautiously at all times.


When beginning to taxi, the brakes should be tested
immediately for proper operation. This is done by first
applying power to start the airplane moving slowly
forward, then retarding the throttle and simultaneously
applying pressure smoothly to both brakes. If braking
action is unsatisfactory, the engine should be shut down

To turn the airplane on the ground, the pilot should
apply rudder in the desired direction of turn and use
whatever power or brake that is necessary to control
the taxi speed. The rudder should be held in the
direction of the turn until just short of the point where
the turn is to be stopped, then the rudder pressure
released or slight opposite pressure applied as needed.
While taxiing, the pilot will have to anticipate the
movements of the airplane and adjust rudder pressure
accordingly. Since the airplane will continue to turn
slightly even as the rudder pressure is being released,
the stopping of the turn must be anticipated and the
rudder pedals neutralized before the desired heading is
reached. In some cases, it may be necessary to apply
opposite rudder to stop the turn, depending on the taxi

The presence of moderate to strong headwinds and/or a
strong propeller slipstream makes the use of the
elevator necessary to maintain control of the pitch
attitude while taxiing. This becomes apparent when
considering the lifting action that may be created on
the horizontal tail surfaces by either of those two
factors. The elevator control should be held in the aft
position (stick or yoke back) to hold the tail down.
When taxiing in a quartering headwind, the wing on
the upwind side will usually tend to be lifted by the
wind unless the aileron control is held in that direction
(upwind aileron UP). Moving the aileron into the UP
position reduces the effect of wind striking that wing,
thus reducing the lifting action. This control movement
will also cause the opposite aileron to be placed in the
DOWN position, thus creating drag and possibly some
lift on the downwind wing, further reducing the
tendency of the upwind wing to rise.

When taxiing with a quartering tailwind, the elevator
should be held in the full DOWN position (stick or
yoke full forward), and the upwind aileron down. Since
the wind is striking the airplane from behind, these
control positions reduce the tendency of the wind to get
under the tail and the wing possibly causing the
airplane to nose over. The application of these
crosswind taxi corrections also helps to minimize the
weathervaning tendency and ultimately results in
increased controllability.