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


It is important to establish and maintain the proper amount of crosswind correction prior to lift-off; that is, apply aileron pressure toward the wind to keep the upwind wing from rising and apply rudder pressure as needed to prevent weathervaning.

As the tailwheel is raised off the runway, the holding of aileron control into the wind may result in the downwind wing rising and the downwind main wheel lifting off the runway first, with the remainder of the takeoff roll being made on one main wheel. This is acceptable and is preferable to side-skipping.

If a significant crosswind exists, the main wheels should be held on the ground slightly longer than in a normal takeoff so that a smooth but definite lift-off can be made. This procedure will allow the airplane to leave the ground under more positive control so that it will definitely remain airborne while the proper amount of drift correction is being established. More importantly, it will avoid imposing excessive side loads on the landing gear and prevent possible damage that would result from the airplane settling back to the runway while drifting.

As both main wheels leave the runway, and ground friction no longer resists drifting, the airplane will be slowly carried sideways with the wind until adequate drift correction is maintained.


Wing flaps should be lowered prior to takeoff if recommended by the manufacturer. Takeoff power should be applied smoothly and continuously, (there should be no hesitation) to accelerate the airplane as rapidly as possible. As the takeoff roll progresses, the airplane’s pitch attitude and angle of attack should be adjusted to that which results in the minimum amount of drag and the quickest acceleration. The tail should be allowed to rise off the ground slightly, then held in this tail-low flight attitude until the proper lift-off or rotation airspeed is attained. For the steepest climb-out and best obstacle clearance, the airplane should be allowed to roll with its full weight on the main wheels and accelerated to the lift-off speed.


Wing flaps may be lowered prior to starting the takeoff (if recommended by the manufacturer) to provide additional lift and transfer the airplane’s weight from the wheels to the wings as early as possible. The airplane should be taxied onto the takeoff surface without stopping on a soft surface. Stopping on a soft surface, such as mud or snow, might bog the airplane down. The airplane should be kept in continuous motion with sufficient power while lining up for the takeoff roll.

As the airplane is aligned with the proposed takeoff path, takeoff power is applied smoothly and as rapidly as the powerplant will accept it without faltering. The tail should be kept low to maintain the inherent positive angle of attack and to avoid any tendency of the airplane to nose over as a result of soft spots, tall grass, or deep snow.

When the airplane is held at a nose-high attitude throughout the takeoff run, the wings will, as speed increases and lift develops, progressively relieve the wheels of more and more of the airplane’s weight, thereby minimizing the drag caused by surface irregularities or adhesion. If this attitude is accurately maintained, the airplane will virtually fly itself off the ground. The airplane should be allowed to accelerate to climb speed in ground effect.

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Copyright 2012
PED Publication