A tailwheel airplane is one in which the wheel providing steering on the ground is at the back of the airplane. They are simultaneously known as dangerous, fun, temperamental, and humbling.
As you probably know, the FAA requires additional training for pilots before they can operate tailwheel airplanes as PIC. For good reason! There are a lot of wrong or even blantantly unsafe techniques, both from fellow pilots, CFIs, and especially the web. Choose Latitude, and you choose to take instruction in the methods and techniques the pros use, because we learned from the pros.
- Why get a tailwheel endorsement?
- What's involved?
- What will this cost?
- What's the hardest part?
- What's the best part?
Good question. Reasons are as varied as the pilot. For some, the challenge of it is enough. For others, they want access to a class of aircraft that is usually less expensive than tricycle gear airplanes of similar (or even worse!) price point and condition. Perhaps for some, it is the places a tailwheel airplane can go.
FAR 14 CFR 61.31(i) states that the pilot will be given training on, and found proficient in, the following maneuvers and procedures:
- Normal and crosswind takeoffs and landings
- Wheel landings
Here at Latitude, we use a bottom-up approach to training in tailwheel aircraft. Most flight training in tailwheel airplanes occurs in the wrong place: the air! We use a proven set of exercises that builds the confidence of the pilot on the ground before takeoff and landing are even attempted, working from taxi speed up to near takeoff/landing speed, all on the ground. This approach builds reflexes, practices the important parts of competent ground control of a tailwheel airplane, and instills confidence in the pilot. Then, and only then, is the pilot launched airborne for the usual round of aircraft transition maneuvers and procedures, followed by first landings at certain nearby grass airstrips.
From there, most pilots are capable of supervised practice (by the CFI, that is) in the airplane at the wide variety of grass and paved airstrips within easy range of KCOE. Mix in some decent crosswinds, certainly a go-around or three, and a tailwheel pilot is born.
Easily the hardest question to quantify, given the range of costs for the Champ vs the 175, as well as the differing skill and experience level on the part of the pilot.
Here’s the best answer: expect to fly at least 6-12 hours for whatever an “average” pilot might be. Unless you fly more than 5-10 hours a month, have great crosswind and directional control habits, and even a certain amount of kinesthetic ability (such as hand-eye coordination, and the ability to change muscle memory), plan to be an average pilot.
Your main challenges will be:
- Feeling like a rookie. Your first attempts at taxi will likely be laughable, even to you. You haven’t bounced on landing like that since you were a student pilot. But, like anything, practice makes better. Under Latitude instruction you’ll be tracking straight and understanding why.
- Proper aileron use. Yep. Ailerons. Everyone knows the rudder is a big deal on tailwheel airplanes – and it is! – but the ailerons are the key to proficiency. You will likely have to re-learn your aileron skills, but in the process you will gain crosswind confidence that you can take with you to any airplane you fly.
- Bounce recovery. There is a lot of information on bounce recovery in tailwheel airplanes, most involving one variant or other of “hold the stick back”. It is my (CFI Jeff Fouche) firm belief that there is a better way, and Latitude can teach you how.
You will finish your tailwheel endorsement as a pilot with a heightened confidence in airplane control. Grass airstrips will leave a smile on your face. The smile will get bigger when you realize you are part of a select set of pilots that has access to a delightfully fun set of aircraft from aviation’s Golden Age.
Most of all, it is our promise that you will have had a blast.