Chapter 13 Transition to Tailwheel Airplanes

Table of Contents
Tailwheel Airplanes
Landing Gear
Normal Takeoff Roll
Crosswind Takeoff
Short-Field Takeoff
Soft-Field Takeoff
After-Landing Roll
Crosswind Landing
Crosswind After-Landing Roll
Wheel Landing
Short-Field Landing
Soft-Field Landing
Ground Loop

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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 landings.


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 airplaneā€™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.

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