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


After taxiing onto the runway, the airplane should be carefully aligned with the intended takeoff direction, and the tailwheel positioned straight, or centered. In airplanes equipped with a locking device, the tailwheel should be locked in the centered position. After releasing the brakes, the throttle should be smoothly and continuously advanced to takeoff power. As the airplane starts to roll forward, the pilot should slide both feet down on the rudder pedals so that the toes or balls of the feet are on the rudder portions, not on the brake portions.

An abrupt application of power may cause the airplane to yaw sharply to the left because of the torque effects of the engine and propeller. Also, precession will be particularly noticeable during takeoff in a tailwheeltype airplane if the tail is rapidly raised from a three point to a level flight attitude. The abrupt change of attitude tilts the horizontal axis of the propeller, and the resulting precession produces a forward force on the right side (90° ahead in the direction of rotation), yawing the airplane’s nose to the left. The amount of force created by this precession is directly related to the rate the propeller axis is tilted when the tail is raised. With this in mind, the throttle should always be advanced smoothly and continuously to prevent any sudden swerving.

Smooth, gradual advancement of the throttle is very important in tailwheel-type airplanes, since peculiarities in their takeoff characteristics are accentuated in proportion to how rapidly the takeoff power is applied.

As speed is gained, the elevator control will tend to assume a neutral position if the airplane is correctly trimmed. At the same time, directional control should be maintained with smooth, prompt, positive rudder corrections throughout the takeoff roll. The effects of torque and P-factor at the initial speeds tend to pull the nose to the left. The pilot must use what rudder pressure is needed to correct for these effects or for existing wind conditions to keep the nose of the airplane headed straight down the runway. The use of brakes for steering purposes should be avoided, since they will cause slower acceleration of the airplane’s speed, lengthen the takeoff distance, and possibly result in severe swerving.

When the elevator trim is set for takeoff, on application of maximum allowable power, the airplane will (when sufficient speed has been attained) normally assume the correct takeoff pitch attitude on its own—the tail will rise slightly. This attitude can then be maintained by applying slight back-elevator pressure. If the elevator control is pushed forward during the takeoff roll to prematurely raise the tail, its effectiveness will rapidly build up as the speed increases, making it necessary to apply back-elevator pressure to lower the tail to the proper takeoff attitude. This erratic change in attitude will delay the takeoff and lead to directional control problems. Rudder pressure must be used promptly and smoothly to counteract yawing forces so that the airplane continues straight down the runway.

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While the speed of the takeoff roll increases, more and more pressure will be felt on the flight controls, particularly the elevators and rudder. Since the tail surfaces receive the full effect of the propeller slipstream, they become effective first. As the speed continues to increase, all of the flight controls will gradually become effective enough to maneuver the airplane about its three axes. It is at this point, in the taxi to flight transition, that the airplane is being flown more than taxied. As this occurs, progressively smaller rudder deflections are needed to maintain direction.

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