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Thread: Which tailwheel aircraft that are most/least prone to groundloop?

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    Member BluNosDav's Avatar
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    Question Which tailwheel aircraft that are most/least prone to groundloop?

    I understand the theoretical forces that can cause a tailwheel aircraft to swap ends on the ground.
    But, which particular models are the most, and the least, likely to generate these forces during normal operations?

    Thanx, Dave.
    "Luckily, enforcement reads these forums, and likely will peruse this one...Especially after a link of it is forwarded to them....." - AlaskaHippie.

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    Member polardds's Avatar
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    That is the reason for a tricycle gear.

    The wider the gear legs are apart the better.

    Do you really need a tailwheel?

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    Hard question that can solicit many passionate opinions. I think the cop-out answer is that any of them can bite, but all of them can be handled with appropriate training and an honest assessment of limitations.

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    It is much more a pilot issue than a plane issue. If the gear is properly aligned, just fly it to and from the tie down you will do fine. I learned to fly in a Pacer, now have a cub and a Cessna 180. All of them will bite you if you stop paying attention.
    DENNY

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    As you know, the center of gravity is BEHIND the main gear legs on a Conventional ( taildragger) aircraft , while the CG is in front of the main gear on a Tricycle Gear aircraft. So the tricycle gear tends to auto-correct the center-line of the aircraft to the direction of travel while the opposite is true of tail-wheels.

    Most experienced tailwheel pilots tend to correct for various aircarft and have forgotten which items they were once concerned with...

    There are a few things that affect the stability of a tailwheel aircraft during landings, crosswind operations and taxiing / take-off / landing on uneven terrain.
    In no particular order:

    1. The length between the main gear and the tailwheel assembly.
    2. The width of the main gear from tire to tire ( track width )
    3. The angle of attack while in the three-point position, which can be increased by tall tires and extended gear legs.
    4. Tire or gear-leg bounce while going over pot-holes, rocks, and not so swell landings.
    5. Vertical stabilizer and rudder size.
    6. Aileron travel available.
    7. Engine & prop size, ( excessive Torque, gyro precession )
    8. Pilot hand-eye-foot coordination and reaction speed. ******

    Some aircraft tend to be better tailwheel trainers because they are long enough, just wide enough and underpowered enough to make flying them a breeze. The J3 Cub, PA-11 Cub Special, PA-18-95 and PA-18-105 Super Cubs are great. The Champ is also pretty hard to beat. All of these have visibility out both sides and have gear legs which do not bounce much. Next would be the Super Cubs 125 to 180 horse. Also the Citabria 7GCBC 150 and 160 horse. The RANS S-7 is also a very cool tandem tailwheel and they handle just like a 100 horse power Cub. The PA-12 Super Cruiser and converted J5 Cruisers are very easy to fly and ground handle. The cockpit is wider than a supercub and they seem to stay straight a little easier. Plus they have LOTS more shoulder room inside.

    For side by side flying the standard engined Aeronca Sedan is hard to beat, as is the standard engined C-170B. The first C-170s had flat wings and were not as easy to fly. Also beware that there are some 170s out there with the older and thinner main gear legs. They are either bouncy or spongy. When you start adding big engines and huge tires things become more complicated and bouncy. Yes I forgot to add the little Taylor Craft. Because they are generally too small for two adults and often the old ones came with crappy mechanical brakes. UNLESS, you are talking about the newer F-19 and F-21 T-crafts. They are OK and easy to land and taxi. Cessna 140s are OK, but they are a bit cramped if you are a big person with a big CFI. A tail-wheel converted C-150 with a wide gear track and a 150 horse engine is a lot more roomy , better on the ground and more zippy than an old C-140. A Luscombe 8e looks a bit like a C-140 from a distance, but they are actually a little shorter and harder to handle on the ground. The side by side sticks are interesting until you try sliding across the seat with big boots. They also seem a little more narrow to me when sitting inside. They are a HOOT to fly.

    Tailwheel Pacers and Maules are short between the main gear and tail-wheel assembly. They tend to take a wee bit more skill. C-180s, 185s and Helios have more engine weight, more horse power and torque, So they are not good starter aircraft.
    Floatplane,Tailwheel and Firearms Instructor- Dragonfly Aero
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    Float Pilot is wise and offers accurate summary regarding tailwheel aircraft.

    How much you are challenged by your instructor, and by yourself, will build the foundation of your success.

    During World War 2 the North American AT 6 (SNJ) was an advanced trainer with a fearsome reputation, somewhat deserves in relation to spin recovery. The Texan was aircraft # 3 in a progression of progressively more difficult mounts. Later in the 1950ís the military successfully used the demanding AT 6 Texan as an initial primary trainer. The aircraft had not changed in the degree of difficulty of operation however to the student that difficulty was all relative. The first few hours the machine was very difficult and by solo phase the student had mastered the basics of flight. With proper instruction and motivation the person being trained is usually successful though certain aircraft, like the Pitts S2, or the Robinson R 22, handle quickly and place greater demands on the instructor if the aircraft is fully demonstrated. You as the student will be playing a simpler game. First i canít and now I can.

    Your choice of instructors and your motivation and attention to detail is more important than the aircraft being flown. The Champs are easy but donít fear the Pacers.

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    Unfortunately some people just cannot fly worth a darn due to slow reaction time and lack of ability to take instruction. It is far better to try a few lessons first before you ever start looking for a plane.

    15 years ago an FAA "FISDO" person said these words to me.
    " Some people should never fly or trying to fly. You need to stop being Mr. Nice-Guy trying to teach some of these people. They will either kill you, kill themselves or get you sued."
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    I like the free schools where if you screw up your in the infantry or surface fleet. Being able to wash out students who just donít make the grade is a good thing.

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    I learned in and currently fly a Stinson. Yahoo!

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    Stearman without a doubt is one of the ground loopiest planes ever built. Don't see many in Alaska though. We used to joke that even an airline trike only driver wouldn't make it to the runway without swapping ends.

    180/185's have a rep too, but mostly I think from guys who haven't ground looped a Stearman. ;-)

    Which reminds me of a story. A number of years ago on a hot summer day a guy I know, Claude, was landing his P-51 at my Texas airport which at the time had only a 30' runway, white knuckle for a P-51 driver. Anyway I happen to be there and shoot a video of the landing. About half way down the runway one wheel goes off the pavement into the dirt and he struggles hard to keep from loosing the plane. He succeeds, back taxis to transient, shuts the Mustang down and just sits in the cockpit motionless and speechless for fifteen minutes. About that time his mechanic arrives in Claude's C185. For the first time Claude turns to look at me and broke his silence. He pointed his finger at his 185 and said "that airplane there scares the hell out of me". Well I had a 185 and Claude knew it so I said to him "Claude, I know the manners of a 185, but not a Mustang, how about letting me take her up and see if I concur with your assessment". I still haven't flown a P-51.

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    For me : geometry is paramount. The width on the mains and the greater the distance between the mains and the tail wheel is King. Simple math of a greater circumference on the ground: over angles, cg, weights, and energy forces. Which all play in, but not as significant. If all things are equal (all three tires solidly on the ground): the further that tail is behind the mains: the longer it will take for the transitions to ground looping. So for me on landing: regardless of what tail dragger I am flying, if I am concerned about crosswind side effects and ground looping: get the wheels planted on terra firma, hold coarse, and then lower tail.
    I cant help but think that shorter coupled aircraft would be more susceptible this, along with the acceleration of the CG being behind the mains adding to the moment.

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    I'd second the advice to read what Float Pilot wrote above.

    My $0.03 is that any tailwheel aircraft can get twisted if the driver isn't paying the right degree of attention (or is unable to execute the right inputs as noted above). I've found the -12 very docile in the air or on the ground, but it can still remind one that inattention is a bad thing.

    Even paying attention, and experiencing them in younger days when I didn't have to look up reflex, a Luscombe seemed pretty snappy to go sideways on landing and the C-185 required a good amount of attention whenever one had lots of throttle on (i.e. takeoff) the ground.
    Back in AK

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    This one is probably the most prone to ground looping, but hard to find one for sale.
    Attached Images Attached Images

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    I believe that one would be slow and deliberate with application of power with that beast and be endowed with exceptional reflexes.

    To the original poster: A check out with an instructor that "is a good stick" and is familiar with a particular aircraft is a good course of action.

    Self evaluate. Are you good at driving things with the seat of you pants understanding of basic physics? Before you take flight in any aircraft, sit in it for as long as necessary to become accustomed to control movement feel and deflection and amount of travel.

    I have flown several aircraft and the majority are conventional gear. My preference to tricycle or conventional depends on my mission.

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    Member Float Pilot's Avatar
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    This guy departs the runway after a wandering landing in an M-7 Maule.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vfy5...ature=youtu.be
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    It was obvious this fellow was way behind the airplane, starting with a 2-3 mile wide pattern and then over and under controlling on final. The other fellow was just along for the ride...

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    Oh boy here we go,LOL, my guess would be a early PA20, with the early narrow gear and upgraded engine, O-320-150 or 160hp.

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    Quote Originally Posted by algonquin View Post
    Oh boy here we go,LOL, my guess would be a early PA20, with the early narrow gear and upgraded engine, O-320-150 or 160hp.
    My dad told me that. Apparently he had experience with one

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    Member BluNosDav's Avatar
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    Float,
    Thanx for your very detailed explanations!

    upstream,
    I instructed for several years at one of those "free schools". But, tail-draggers like the SNJ had been replaced with trikes, by then.

    Allow me to ask a few follow-up questions:

    1. How does weight affect the propensity to groundloop? i.e. A lightly loaded aircraft -vs- the same aircraft at max gross weight?

    2. If the same aircraft was "lengthened" in the fuselage, and therefore increased the distance between main & tail wheels, would that help it's handling characteristics? For example, there are some PA-20's that have had 18-24" sections added to increase cargo capacity. Or would the extra weight that could be carried that far aft, negate the positive affects of the longer wheel base?

    3. I can understand how a more powerful engine could introduce more forces of instability, if operated too abruptly. But, wouldn't a heavier engine, which is obviously mounted in front of the main wheels, also decrease groundlooping tendencies, by moving the aircraft's CG further forward, as long as the pilot applied that extra power more judiciously?

    4. Could increased angle of attack caused by larger main wheels, be corrected at least partially, by a larger tail wheel and/or taller tail mount?

    5. The Cessna 185 seems to have a relatively wide wheel stance, and a relatively long wheel base. Yet it was referenced in a negative way by more than one pilot in this thread. Is it just the relatively powerful engine that gets it into trouble? Or is there something else at play? Do similar, yet slightly less powerful Cessna 180's handle better?

    Thanx again, Dave.
    "Luckily, enforcement reads these forums, and likely will peruse this one...Especially after a link of it is forwarded to them....." - AlaskaHippie.

  20. #20

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    My tailwheel training was done in my C185, which has the IO550, and 29" Bushwheels. I had tons of time, but only 1.8 hours tailwheel time in a C180, when I bought it. More than one person suggested doing it in a "tamer" airplane, but after spending what I did for it, that wasn't happening. Plus sooner or later, I had to fly it Also, except for maybe 4 hours in the last two years to see if I really wanted to spend that kind of money, it had been close to 18 or so thousand hours since flying a light airplane. So, it was quite an exciting experience.

    A few notes from my experience. I had read anything I could find on tailwheel flying, over and over again. I was so paranoid about ground looping, that, per my instructor, I never had any issues to speak of when it came to the rudder. Again, I credit that to being EXTREMELY sensitive to, and aware of, rudder control on the ground. Interestingly, our first lesson was weathered out, so we just did a rapid taxi down runway 13 at Willow, and the instructor started weaving down the runway, to show me what you could do, and still recover from. I would have bet anything that what he did with the weaving, you would not be able to recover from. I have yet to do anything like that myself, but after some hours, feel much more comfortable with it. I did have a bit of a wakeup call after getting a little "comfortable" doing stop and goes, and was re-trimming while still moving at a pretty good clip. I learned that it is not a good idea to do anything, except fly the plane, when it is moving.

    One thing that surprised me was the amount of rudder that is needed, beyond that for P-Factor, due to precession, when the nose comes down, and the tail up. I know it is a big engine, but that is one thing that surprised me. Especially when light, as I usually am when out practicing.

    The hardest thing I had to get used to, and still work on, is "sticking" it on the runway, on a wheel landing. That was counterintuitive to me, and took a lot of practice. And still does. But it is like anything else, at some point, it clicks. It is so much fun to bounce around in that thing. It is unbelievable. Then, if you really want to have some fun, put it on floats

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