Video Tip: How to land a tailwheel airplane (wheel landing method)
Most pilots learn to fly and earn their pilot certificate in a tricycle gear airplane, often referred to as a “nosewheel” airplane, like a Cessna 172 or Piper Archer. After spending some time at just about any airport, however, you’ll also see a variety of tailwheel airplanes, which were designed and built decades before the first nosewheel airplane ever flew. While there aren’t many differences when flying tailwheel and nosewheel airplanes in the air, taking off and landing are a different story.
This week’s tip explains how to land a tailwheel airplane by using the “wheel landing” method. To learn more about how to fly tailwheel airplanes, check out Sporty’s Tailwheel Checkout Course with Patty Wagstaff.
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I learned to fly in tailwheel aircraft but for some time had problems with wheel landings. I had a revelation when I later learned to fly Lake Amphibians, flying boats, that translates well to wheel landings in tailwheel aircraft. My seaplane instructor said frequently when landing you are trying to match the surface of the hull with the surface of the water. In other words make the last few inches of decent at almost zero rate. When he said that I had an “ah ha” moment. That applies well to wheel landings. You’re trying to match the surface of the tires to the surface of the runway. My wheel landings improved immensely.
One other problem came after touchdown. My original instructor in the Aeronca 7AC Champ had me shove the stick forward hard to the stop at initial touchdown. I later realized this wasn’t necessary to be so aggressive and this can have serious consequences, especially in airplanes with spring steel gear. Like was mentioned in the video, push forward just a little on touchdown.
One other thing mentioned in the video. Carrying a little power through the flare helps. The less power the more rapid the deceleration in the flare. This makes timing of the touchdown more critical and even difficult. However, too much power can eat up runway.
At 3:00, the narration suggests 150fpm descent. At 3:10, the aircraft VSI shows 500 fpm descent on very short final. Is the 150 target used just before beginning roundup, after crossing the threshold?