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What Is The Correct Way To Land A Tail Dragger?  
User currently offlineJamesbuk From United Kingdom, joined May 2005, 3968 posts, RR: 4
Posted (9 years 6 months 12 hours ago) and read 10478 times:

Hi guys and girls!!

I was reading a book (Yes i can read!!) about an RAF WWII pilot who started off as no-one and progressed into flying spitfires,he sometimes mentioned briefly his landings, and it got me thinking What is the correct way to land an aircraft? Do you land on all 3 wheels or the front 2?
So what is the correct procedure?

Rgds --James--

You cant have your cake and eat it... What the hells the point in having it then!!!
14 replies: All unread, jump to last
User currently offlineStarlionblue From Greenland, joined Feb 2004, 17365 posts, RR: 66
Reply 1, posted (9 years 6 months 11 hours ago) and read 10481 times:

Not that I have ever attempted it, but I believe both a three point and a main gear landing are acceptable, with selection depending on wind conditions.

"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots."
User currently offlineA3204eva From United Kingdom, joined Feb 2004, 1060 posts, RR: 4
Reply 2, posted (9 years 6 months 11 hours ago) and read 10465 times:

You land more or less level (on the two main gears) then slowly drop the tail.

"They have lady pilots......... they're not that good, but they have 'em"
User currently offlineMissedApproach From Canada, joined Oct 2004, 713 posts, RR: 2
Reply 3, posted (9 years 6 months 11 hours ago) and read 10460 times:

IIRC, RAF pilots flying P-40 Warhawks broke several in half making three-point landings. USN types would make three-point landings too since because of their tailhook.
So, I presume it depends on the airplane, but if you look at general aviation types I think you will only see main gear touchdowns.

Can you hear me now?
User currently offline2H4 From United States of America, joined Oct 2004, 8956 posts, RR: 59
Reply 4, posted (9 years 6 months 9 hours ago) and read 10428 times:

Quoting MissedApproach (Reply 3):
So, I presume it depends on the airplane

 checkmark   checkmark   checkmark   yes 


Intentionally Left Blank
User currently offlineFutureUApilot From United States of America, joined May 2004, 1365 posts, RR: 4
Reply 5, posted (9 years 6 months 9 hours ago) and read 10418 times:

I was talking to my Flight Instructor and he said the only difference with flying a tail dragger is you don't really flare much, but the main reason for the seperate rating is because you have to learn how to taxi... not being able to see the ground. And I always thought those extra's in airshows were just shoing their plane off to the crowd!


The Pilot is the highest form of life on Earth!
User currently offlineJetlagged From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2005, 2606 posts, RR: 25
Reply 6, posted (9 years 6 months 8 hours ago) and read 10409 times:

Quoting FutureUApilot (Reply 5):
but the main reason for the seperate rating is because you have to learn how to taxi... not being able to see the ground

Not just that, the tailwheel arrangement is directionally unstable on the ground, leading to a tendency to ground loop. You can also nose over if the brakes are applied too agressively.

In the old days if you couldn't do a three pointer from a power off approach you weren't considered a proper pilot, a wheeler landing being the "safe" choice. However if you think about it the three point landing is basically a near stalled arrival, so with very little margin for error. If the angle of attack of the wing in the three pointer attitude exceeds the stall angle of attack attempting a three pointer is asking for trouble.

On the plus side a three pointer will minimise the landing roll and need for brakes (early aircraft had none at all).

The glass isn't half empty, or half full, it's twice as big as it needs to be.
User currently offlineMDorBust From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 7, posted (9 years 6 months 7 hours ago) and read 10401 times:

Quoting FutureUApilot (Reply 5):
I was talking to my Flight Instructor and he said the only difference with flying a tail dragger is you don't really flare much, ...

I get's even worse  Smile

You get to do the counter intuitive move of pushing the controls foreward just before the plane touches down

More info: Tail Dragger Landings (by Kevinl1011 Oct 25 2005 in Tech Ops)#ID131811

User currently offlineCosmicCruiser From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 2265 posts, RR: 15
Reply 8, posted (9 years 6 months 7 hours ago) and read 10398 times:

It really depends on weather conditions and type of plane. A small plane like a j-3 or so lands beautifully in a full stall 3 point ldg. If it's windy you may want to make a wheel landing . A bigger plane like a Be-18, DC-3 usually makes wheel landings. There's no extra rating for a taildragger but most insurance co. or flight schools will certainly require a few hours of checkout especially landing and taxi.

User currently offlinePilotpip From United States of America, joined Sep 2003, 3153 posts, RR: 10
Reply 9, posted (9 years 6 months 7 hours ago) and read 10395 times:

You just need a one time endorsement in your logbook stating you recieved one hour flight and one hour ground instruction, much like a high performance or complex endorsement. However, most will agree that if you learn on tricycle gear, you're going to need more than the minimum one hour ground and one hour flight instruction needed.

User currently offlineAirgypsy From United States of America, joined Nov 1999, 130 posts, RR: 2
Reply 10, posted (9 years 6 months 5 hours ago) and read 10372 times:

Tail draggers are from the era of grass runways. The high traction afforded by touching down on pavement makes even the slightest mistake get magnified. I always recommended my tail dragger customers to maintain the highest recommended tire pressure when landing on pavement because it keeps the contact area reduced until all the weight is on the tires and gives you a few seconds to "straighten things out".
In a tail dragger one rule is above all else. The tires must be pointed in the direction of travel on touchdown.

User currently offlineBuzz From United States of America, joined Nov 1999, 697 posts, RR: 20
Reply 11, posted (9 years 6 months 4 hours ago) and read 10347 times:

Hi Jamesbuk, Buzz here. There's a freindly, chatty forum of Aeronca pilots and mechanics called the fearless-Aeronca Aviatiors (f-AA). One guy on the list is a very good instructor and has written several handouts called "One Man's Opinion". One of them deals with Wheel landings. Don't land tailwheel low, you'll increase the angle of attack and bounce / float. Give the stick a certain push when you feel the wheels brush the grass.

I prefer to land Champs and Cubs MLG first (and power at idle). Your airspeed is a little higher, the better to deal with crosswinds. You can see somewhat better (from the back seat of a J-3 Cub), and you're not as likely to land tailwheel first and bend something.

A DC-3 cannot endure the weight of the airplane landing on that tailwheel strut without bending /tearing metal. So you generally see them wheel landed.

And if you bounce the wheel landing, it's easy to turn it into a 3 pointer!

I'll have to disagree (politely) with Airgypsy about MLG tire pressure. In a Champ/Cub you should be less than 20 psi, above that it becomes somewhat more unstable on a paved runway.

User currently offlineKAUSpilot From United States of America, joined Jan 2002, 1975 posts, RR: 30
Reply 12, posted (9 years 6 months 3 hours ago) and read 10337 times:

I prefer to do wheel landings, as I find them easier, especially in larger aircraft. The Stinson 108 I used to fly loved the wheel landings. The Decathlon is more of a 3 pointer.

User currently offlineATCT From United States of America, joined Mar 2001, 2475 posts, RR: 35
Reply 13, posted (9 years 5 months 4 weeks 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 10248 times:

I was taught 3 point landings only. If you cant land a J-3, PA-18 or whatever at a full three point in a crosswind, then you dont deserve the endorement. Ive been told my one of my ex instructors who flew Dc-3's that If you three point landed it in a slight wind, it was if you were asking to have a ground loop.

I agree it depends on the aircraft, but I also believe that any small tailwheel, should always be three-pointed. I can stop a J-3 in less than 200ft from a 3 pt, from a wheel landing that turns into 8-900.


"The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing." - Walt Disney
User currently offlineAerobalance From United States of America, joined Sep 2000, 4692 posts, RR: 44
Reply 14, posted (9 years 5 months 4 weeks 1 day 14 hours ago) and read 10225 times:

In the 185 that I fly I have been asked by the owner to 3-point land. I make it easier by dialing in quite a bit of nose-up pitch trim on downwind, yes it does require me to fly a touch of downwind, base and final legs with some forward pressure on the yoke but it does become less as I bleed off airspeed.
It all comes together during flair as I ease pressure off gently from the yoke and land in the attitude that I desire.

"Sing a song, play guitar, make it snappy..."
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