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Tamed by the Tailwheel



 
 
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  #1  
Old January 11th 05, 06:06 PM
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Default Tamed by the Tailwheel

Yesterday I had an acro lesson scheduled, but since the ceilings were
too low we decided to do some pattern work instead since I'm also
working on the TW endorsement. The grass field at the airport had some
soft spots from the rain this weekend, so the plan was to fly over to
Queens City Airport, just outside of Allentown, PA. While I have
managed to make some good three point landings on the grass, the
majority of my eight or so hours in the Super Decathlon has been
devoted to acro, with pattern work making up only a small percentage of
my time up to this point.

Although I knew the winds were 310 with gusts between 20-24 kts, when
we departed from Rwy 25 I was still surprised at how quickly the wind
was pushing me off centerline. I corrected, but as we had been warned
by a glider pilot a few minutes earlier, the ten minute trip over was
extremely bumpy and likely made worse by the numerous ridges in the
area. After arriving I overflew the field to verify the most
appropriate runway, which was Rwy 33. My instructor informed me that
the pattern is particularly tight, with one reason being that there is
a ridge on the approach end of Rwy 33.

I flew out and made the 45 to the downwind while getting knocked around
the entire time. On the first pattern I found myself rushed and not
able to get properly set-up. I knew that I was too fast on final and
while I flared at about the right time, I allowed my attitude to fall
somewhere between that required for a wheel landing and a three point.
Combining those two factors caused me to bounce more times than I care
to remember, so I decided to go around. What became readily apparent to
me is that while one can get away with excess speed on the grass, the
margin for error on the hard top.

One the next trip around the pattern I think I was more relaxed and was
able to not only get my prop and throttle setting nailed, but I managed
to get my speed closer to where it should be. This approach was far
more stable with a good flare, but again my attitude was a hybrid
between a wheel and three point. I think part of the problem was that
I wasn't keeping the stick far enough back for a good three point
attitude. My instructor commented that if I had just given it a little
more forward pressure it would have been a good wheel landing, although
that's not what I was trying to do. We did one more trip around the
pattern before heading back and that was probably the worst of the
three.

Back at Van Sant we had about a 60 degree crosswind, but I managed to
keep the upwind wing down. Fortunately, the grass allows more mistakes
to be forgiven than on asphalt. I think my biggest problem happens to
be speed control. While I'm comfortable with no flap landings in a
172, I think the higher speed on downwind in the SD makes it harder to
bleed off speed for the approach. I'm 23 squared on downwind then once
abeam the numbers I bring the MP to 15" and prop full forward. At that
point my airspeed is about 120 mph. My instructor mentioned that he
often keeps cruise speed on downwind until abeam. I've done enough
spins and stalls in the SD to know that with throttle to idle it still
takes some work getting the airspeed down. Because I don't want to
make my pattern too wide I'm reluctant to spend too much time bleeding
off airspeed before completing the pattern.

But I think that if I can get my airspeed control nailed consistently I
can really get a handle on this. When my airspeed is on point my
landings are pretty good, but it's a matter of nailing the airspeed
more often. Doing this in a 172 is almost a no brainer. Perhaps I
should let the instructor demonstrate a few landings for me. It was
humbling experience and I felt like I was a new student pilot all over
again. I think my feet are still tired from all the dancing I had to
do.

Dave

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  #2  
Old January 11th 05, 06:09 PM
jsmith
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120 on downwind!!!
You're about 40 mph faster than you should be. It's no wonder you cannot
get slowed down! You should be no more than 85 MPH by the time you enter
the pattern. If you want to bleed speed, slip it and don't let the
airspeed increase when you kick it straight.
Forget about the prop until short final. If you are below 1600 RPM at
15" MP, you are probably below the minimum governor speed
  #3  
Old January 11th 05, 07:08 PM
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Dave,

Your speed on downwind is fine, it allows you to mix with other
airplanes. Suggest you just pull the power back further when you make
the initial reduction and then quit looking at the m.p. gauge and use
the power as you need it to descend and hold your speed where you want
it. Speed control is utterly essential on tailwheel airplanes. It's
okay to be decelerating through the pattern and nail the speed on
final. If you're fast, close the throttle and slow down, using a
forward slip if necessary, although with a little planning you won't
need to slip the airplane. Wait until you are on final for the prop,
out of consideration for the folks around the airport. Make sure the
throttle is closed before you go into the flare and then strive to get
the stick all the way back to the stop before touchdown. It may mean
that the tailwheel touches first, but that's perfectly fine, it's
designed for it.

Have fun finishing the checkout.

All the best,
Rick

  #4  
Old January 11th 05, 08:45 PM
Dudley Henriques
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Don't worry about keeping the airspeed high on downwind. It's perfectly
ok to do that. Unless you're a student learning to fly patterns, you
should be able to fly your pattern at any speed you choose within
available parameters for your airplane's configuration. In fact, it's
good to get used to doing this, as it's only a matter of time until some
controller will ask you to do it for traffic separation.
The Decathlon isn't all that slippery that you can't scrub off some
airspeed any time you wish. Trust me, I've done it hundreds of times.
Just play the approach and the airspeed accordingly, configuring the
airplane the way you want it as you turn base and onto final.
Just make sure, and this is especially important in tailwheels, that you
are configured correctly for airspeed, altitude, and attitude, as you
cross the threshold prior to flare transitioning.
Dudley Henriques
International Fighter Pilots Fellowship
Commercial Pilot/CFI Retired
for private email; make necessary changes between ( )
dhenriques(at)(delete all this)earthlink(dot)net

wrote in message
ups.com...
Yesterday I had an acro lesson scheduled, but since the ceilings were
too low we decided to do some pattern work instead since I'm also
working on the TW endorsement. The grass field at the airport had
some
soft spots from the rain this weekend, so the plan was to fly over to
Queens City Airport, just outside of Allentown, PA. While I have
managed to make some good three point landings on the grass, the
majority of my eight or so hours in the Super Decathlon has been
devoted to acro, with pattern work making up only a small percentage
of
my time up to this point.

Although I knew the winds were 310 with gusts between 20-24 kts, when
we departed from Rwy 25 I was still surprised at how quickly the wind
was pushing me off centerline. I corrected, but as we had been warned
by a glider pilot a few minutes earlier, the ten minute trip over was
extremely bumpy and likely made worse by the numerous ridges in the
area. After arriving I overflew the field to verify the most
appropriate runway, which was Rwy 33. My instructor informed me that
the pattern is particularly tight, with one reason being that there is
a ridge on the approach end of Rwy 33.

I flew out and made the 45 to the downwind while getting knocked
around
the entire time. On the first pattern I found myself rushed and not
able to get properly set-up. I knew that I was too fast on final and
while I flared at about the right time, I allowed my attitude to fall
somewhere between that required for a wheel landing and a three point.
Combining those two factors caused me to bounce more times than I care
to remember, so I decided to go around. What became readily apparent
to
me is that while one can get away with excess speed on the grass, the
margin for error on the hard top.

One the next trip around the pattern I think I was more relaxed and
was
able to not only get my prop and throttle setting nailed, but I
managed
to get my speed closer to where it should be. This approach was far
more stable with a good flare, but again my attitude was a hybrid
between a wheel and three point. I think part of the problem was that
I wasn't keeping the stick far enough back for a good three point
attitude. My instructor commented that if I had just given it a
little
more forward pressure it would have been a good wheel landing,
although
that's not what I was trying to do. We did one more trip around the
pattern before heading back and that was probably the worst of the
three.

Back at Van Sant we had about a 60 degree crosswind, but I managed to
keep the upwind wing down. Fortunately, the grass allows more
mistakes
to be forgiven than on asphalt. I think my biggest problem happens to
be speed control. While I'm comfortable with no flap landings in a
172, I think the higher speed on downwind in the SD makes it harder to
bleed off speed for the approach. I'm 23 squared on downwind then
once
abeam the numbers I bring the MP to 15" and prop full forward. At
that
point my airspeed is about 120 mph. My instructor mentioned that he
often keeps cruise speed on downwind until abeam. I've done enough
spins and stalls in the SD to know that with throttle to idle it still
takes some work getting the airspeed down. Because I don't want to
make my pattern too wide I'm reluctant to spend too much time bleeding
off airspeed before completing the pattern.

But I think that if I can get my airspeed control nailed consistently
I
can really get a handle on this. When my airspeed is on point my
landings are pretty good, but it's a matter of nailing the airspeed
more often. Doing this in a 172 is almost a no brainer. Perhaps I
should let the instructor demonstrate a few landings for me. It was
humbling experience and I felt like I was a new student pilot all over
again. I think my feet are still tired from all the dancing I had to
do.

Dave



  #5  
Old January 11th 05, 10:09 PM
Dudley Henriques
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"T o d d P a t t i s t" wrote in message
news
"Dudley Henriques" wrote:

Just play the approach and the airspeed accordingly, configuring the
airplane the way you want it as you turn base and onto final.
Just make sure, and this is especially important in tailwheels, that
you
are configured correctly for airspeed, altitude, and attitude, as you
cross the threshold prior to flare transitioning.


I would add that for tailwheels, it's particularly important
to have it well set in your mind, at least by final, whether
you are making a 3-pt or a wheel landing, Getting caught
halfway between the two will guarantee rabbit hopping down
the runway.

Selecting between the two types of landings is a decision
that is not made when landing a tricycle gear. Stick motion
during flare, aircraft attitude, the visual picture, etc.
are all subtly different between the two types of landings.
You're really building two different skill sets and you want
to be firmly in one or the other.


I would agree with this.
DH


  #6  
Old January 11th 05, 10:46 PM
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Thanks a lot everyone. I think this was exactly the mistake that I
made, flying some type of hybrid between the two. The only wheel
landing I've experienced to date was when I went up to do inverted
spins a few weeks ago. I asked the instructor to demonstrate one, but
haven't done one myself. Therefore I should have reverted to the three
point attitude that I'm used to seeing. I think that subconsciously I
was trying to see if I could do a wheel landing. Or maybe I was
reverting back to the sight picture for a 172, which is probably
somewhere between the two attitudes in the SD. The three point
attitude seems more natural on the grass strip, whereas the flatter
approach of a wheel landing seems more natural on a hard top runway.
Maybe I just need a lot more practice. :-)

Dave

  #7  
Old January 12th 05, 12:20 AM
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wrote:
The three point
attitude seems more natural on the grass strip, whereas the flatter
approach of a wheel landing seems more natural on a hard top runway.
Maybe I just need a lot more practice. :-)


Dave,

We all could use more practice.

You've had a lot of good advice so far. Some of the other responses
above were from guys with a boatload of hours in the Super D. I've
only had a few hundred, so take this for what it's worth:

The Super D is pretty draggy; I agree that one can enter and fly the
pattern just as fast as blazes, no problem. Squeeze the power off all
the way to idle abeam the numbers, hold altitude (no climbing!), and
watch your airspeed drop like a stone. After the prop falls out of
governing range (about 95 mph), push it full forward and you'll get
another bit of extra drag. As the airspeed sinks to about 80, drop the
wing and start your base.

My first rating was in gliders (many happy hours at Van Sant... tell
Azhar I said, "Hi!"), so I prefer a steep, gliding approach. Slow to
70 on base (trim it!), and play the angles from there to reach your
desired touchdown point. I usually slip hard on final and aim for 70
heavy/65 light over the fence. It's just as easy to hold out a little
longer on downwind and forego the slip if you like that better.

The Super D is an easy, honest airplane, and it'll rescue you from many
mistakes on landing with a good shot of throttle and/or a go-around. I
*much* prefer 3-pointers, but I've learned to wheelie it at will, too.

The Super D will safely 3-point in any crosswind that I'd want to taxi
in (BIG rudder, powerful control surfaces), and I'd take the Super D
over a Cessna or Piper in a strong crosswind any day of the week.

Lastly, bad guys always wear black because black means evil, and
asphalt is black. Everyone knows that green means good, and grass is
green. :-)

Have fun!

-Dave Russell
8KCAB / N2S-3

  #8  
Old January 12th 05, 01:29 AM
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Great advice Dave. I guess I'll listen to you even if you have only a
few hundred hours in the SD. ;-)

Dave

  #9  
Old January 12th 05, 03:58 AM
Marty
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"Dudley Henriques" wrote in message
ink.net...

Selecting between the two types of landings is a decision
that is not made when landing a tricycle gear. Stick motion
during flare, aircraft attitude, the visual picture, etc.
are all subtly different between the two types of landings.
You're really building two different skill sets and you want
to be firmly in one or the other.


I would agree with this.
DH


Dudley, et al,

I have heard from all types, but I query you.
In the proccess of landing, what determines for you whether a full stall "3
point" or a wheel landing is warranted.

I have heard winds, particularly crosswinds are the main factor.

Then I rode with a Delta 727 Capt. (He later took command of a B777) in his
Super Cub, we landed with a nasty, gusty crosswind. I got it on final (me a
student), then he took it to a full stall landing and I paid attention to
the rudder pedal movement. The pedals made ever-so-slight corrections, the
nose hardly moved off centerline. Then the plane met earth ever-so-gently. I
noticed that he never quit "flying" till it was shut down in front of the
hangar. It was the most rewarding flight of my student year.
To this day, all I can think is, "Damn! This Guy is good!"
I applied the experience to my time in a Decathalon but I never got THAT
good at it.
I'll reserve his answer to this queston for later.
Blue Skies,
Marty



  #10  
Old January 12th 05, 03:58 AM
dave
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Dave,
I did a lot of my private with Azher in a J3. When I got my Citabria,
7eca, Azher did my check out. I hadn't flown a taildragger in a few
years and my landing were consistantly too fast. He noticed that I was
spending too much time looking at my airspeed. He had me land without
looking at the airspeed. It's hard not to peek but once you cut the
throttle abeam the numbers, just fly the correct attitude. I'm not
sure if that would work with the SD but it really helped me. Although
I'm sure that you can fly a faster downwind, I found that it really
helped me to slow to 90MPH on downwind. Of course, in my airplane
slowing to 90 isn't too far off cruise speed

BTW, both times I was scheduled to fly with Azher in the SD it was down
for maintenance. The first time we ended up taking the Great Lakes.
The second time was for my BFR and we took the Stearman. One of these
days, I really like to fly an SD!! Maybe I shouldn't, it might make me
want to sell my 7ECA and upgade.

Dave
68 7ECA

wrote:
Great advice Dave. I guess I'll listen to you even if you have only a
few hundred hours in the SD. ;-)

Dave

 




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