Things to Know About Tailwheel Aircraft

Posted on May 10, 2018 Jerold Perkins Aviation

In regard to airplanes, a tailwheel aircraft or a taildagger alludes to the position of the landing gear on an airplane. An aircraft with a tailwheel, which can also be identified as a conventional gear, is designed with the aircraft's two main landing gears set towards the front of the airplane's center of gravity. It can also be set at the front of the aircraft, where a single "tailwheel" is in the back of the airplane to support the airplane's tail.

The word "conventional" can be difficult to fully understand, although in present times, it is more common to see tricycle gears on light aircraft rather than the tailwheel style. Nonetheless, the word "conventional" (which derived from the detail that most airplanes years ago were designed with a tailwheel gear configuration) suggests that the airplane has been design with a tailwheel rather than a tricycle gear. Aircrafts that are designed with tricycle landing gears, in which the two main landing gear are placed behind the center of gravity while the nose gear supports the nose in the front of the aircraft, is the more common gear seen in light aircraft today.

Tailwheel aircraft are often seen to be more challenging and even more hazardous to fly than airplanes designed with a tricycle landing gear. Due to the position of the center of gravity, which is located at the back of the main gear, ground operations such as landing can be more difficult in a tailwheel airplane. Because the nose sits higher in a tailwheel aircraft than a tricycle gear airplane, the forward visibility of the pilot is lowered during ground operations (i.e., landing). It is more difficult to navigate without the ability to see directly in front of you, which is why in most cases, pilots of tailwheel aircraft will do S-turns during navigation.

"Taildaggers" or "tailwheels" certainly also have benefits. Because of the "nose-high attitude" on the ground, the propellers on the aircraft have more clearance from the ground, which makes them more suitable for grass or dirt runways. These aircraft are usually designed and configured for slower flights, which allows for easier landings on short runways.

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