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Questions about Ground Looping in Tailwheel

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  • Questions about Ground Looping in Tailwheel

    I am afraid I may be opening up a old wound with this topic that may seems like a 4 letter words in the tailwheel community. my questions are: is the tailwheel more prone to ground looping compare to tricycle (nose) gear? and how to minimize/avoid ground looping incident when flying with tailwheel?

    here are my background information:
    I am new to this forum; began my real world flying early last year with a flight school and almost finishing up with my instrument rating flying Cessna 172. My flight school just purchased Super Decathlon recently and I am planning to get my tailwheel endorsement after they have a qualify CFI to teach in this plane. The fact is I have zero experience with tailwheel and am a new aviator.

    based on my research, I found a few experienced tailwheel pilots have had groud looping incident one point or another that caused serious damage to their aircraft. A Patrol at
    Oshkosh in 2017 and a pilot of this forum mentioned he ground looped that damaged his tailwheel, then end up building a new one airplane instead of fixing the damage one.

    I am still researching and learning about the home built aircraft and want to make sure i cover this concern before i fully commit to building a tailwheel.

    any input welcome, thanks in advance.
    Last edited by Rey_L; 03-29-2020, 11:08 AM.

  • #2
    Taking the training in the Decathlon for your tailwheel endorsement will answer most of your questions yourself. Instead of relying on all us experts on the internet. Mark


    • #3
      Originally posted by Rey_L View Post
      I am afraid I may be opening up a old wound with this topic that seems to be a 4 letter words in the tailwheel community. my questions are: is the tailwheel more prone to group looping compare to tricycle (nose) gear? and how to minimize/avoid group looping incident when flying with tailwheel?
      Yes, absolutely they are! Taildraggers have negative directional stability on the ground. My favorite example is the shopping cart. Push it forwards, and let it go. It will track mostly straight. Push it backwards and let it go, and it will turn around back to forwards. The second case is like a tailwheel airplane.

      As to how to minimize ground looping, well, you have to learn how to fly them. While you are waiting for the Decathalon instructor, go ahead and read The Compleat Taildragger Pilot by Harvey S. Plourde. Here is an Amazon link in case your library is closed:
      To safely fly tailwheel airplanes, you need to understand the theory, which that book will help with. But you also need to gain the kinesthetic skills by flying the airplane through many takeoffs and landings under the supervision of an instructor. It's like riding a bicycle, or a unicycle, or flying RC airplanes. All of the book reading you can do still does not prepare you to move your body parts as fast as they need to be moved.
      Eventually, after 50-100 takeoffs and landings, you'll reach a point where you can keep the airplane straight and under control without significant environmental challenges like wind. That is the beginning of your tailwheel career. As your tailwheel career progresses, consistent practice and high standards will enable you to expand the wind conditions that you can encounter and still stay under control. If you encounter a level of wind that exceeds the level of skill and airplane capability that you have available at that moment, then you may quite likely lose directional control. The airplane starts going to one side or the other, but because you didn't stop it soon enough, you can put the pedal on the floor and still be unable to correct the turn. If you are going slow enough, it might stay on the wheels. If not, you'll probably break something.
      Flying a tailwheel airplane is hard. Flying any plane well is hard, but some planes let you get away with sloppy piloting more than others. But once you learn to fly a tailwheel, you'll be a better pilot in many respects. Tailwheel pilots fly tricycle planes better, just as glider pilots fly powered planes better. Thousands of people before you have done it, most have done it successfully. It's a busy weekend of work for most folks, or maybe a busy week, to reach solo proficiency.


      • #4
        Jared's post is great information. I would add that while correct use of the rudder is emphasized, correct use of the ailerons is equally important, especially with any crosswind component, and that is true for taxiing, takeoff, and landing. If you are like a lot of us, once you get your tailwheel endorsement, you won't care if you never fly a trike again, and finish that instrument rating, another important and valuable skill!