Friday, December 11, 2009

On the eleventh day of Christmas...

Pick your top ten favourite aircraft of all times. Now, tell me, how many of these are tailwheel aircraft? Hmmm? My point. For Christmas, I would like a tailwheel endorsement. Because it's fun. Because it's different. Because it opens the door to a whole new world of flying adventures.

This post is the eleventh in The Twelve Days of Christmas: An Aviation Gift Guide, a series of posts on Christmas wishes by a number of aviation bloggers. Make sure you check out all the other posts for a range of very diverse aviation wishes, dreams, and talented bloggers!

From what I've heard and read, flying a taildragger is not in itself harder than flying a tricycle-gear aircraft, it is just different. In cruise the aircraft behaves the same as a tricycle-gear aircraft, it is the taxi, take-off and landing phases of flight that are more challenging. There is reduced forward visibility while taxiing to contend with, increased P-torque effects on take-off and higher sensitivity to crosswind in the landing phase. Tailwheel aircraft do not tolerate sloppy landings the same way other aircraft do, which is a good thing training-wise.

I always enjoy watching the flying videos that French private pilot Jean-Claude Garnavaud regularly puts up on his blog Carnet de Vol. Jean-Claude flies a Piper J-3 with the Aéro-Club Hispano-Suiza at Cergy-Pontoise aerodrome near Paris. The Cub is so much fun to fly he says that he does not see the point of cross-country flying, circuits and local flights are all he needs!

I had a look at taildragger schools at Camden airport near Sydney. Most of them instruct in the Citabria. The time they quoted for a tailwheel endorsement ranges from five to ten hours and the price per hour is comparable to that of hiring an Archer. The whole endorsement won't cost me much more than a Bose-X headset, and I already have a headset.

The fact that many taildraggers are also certified for aerobatics adds to the attraction. I wouldn't mind trying my hand at a few wingovers, spins, loops or rolls during the endorsement training.

The range of new airplanes available for hire by a private pilot with a tailwheel endorsement reads like an airshow line-up: Tiger Moth, Chipmunk, T-6 Texan, Cessna 180, Pitts Special and even a Beechcraft Staggerwing. And that's only for the two flying schools I visited at Camden airport.

A whole new world of flying indeed. So make yourself happy, or make your favourite pilot happy, and put a tailwheel endorsement on your aviation wish list for 2010!


sylvia said...

This is a great idea! I'd love to receive this as a gift.

Sean said...

I know the Staggerwing you're talking about, a big, beautiful brute that dominates the hanger :)

I was wondering how have your David Clark had fared after a couple of years use. In a shopping mood, I've been tossing up between the Pilot PA18 or a similarly priced DC model.
I've used DC's during my training and they seem simple & rugged, my big gripe being the ear gel has a habit of falling out, and requiring extensive swearing to re-insert.

Good luck with the tail-draggers

Chris said...

Do it my friend - I found it challenging and difficult, but supremely rewarding and satisfying.

Julien said...

@Sean: the David Clarke is a good and reliable headset. Never had a problem with it. I'm with you on the ear gels, getting the little black plastic flange on the gel to go over the green plastic ridge on the ear cup is a real pain, and if you break the flange the gels won't stay on.

I have to say though that after long cross-country flights (anything beyond 3 hours), the headset start to feel heavy on the head.

I have a suspicion that there are "white label" headsets out there that are now just as good as DCs without the brand-induced price markup. has a wizard for choosing headsets, and they are a lot cheaper than Australia-based retailers.

@Chris: I think I'll definitely do it, I just need to get the Night Rating out of the way first, hopefully clouds will clear up today and I can take the test tonight...

Mark said...

Absolutely do it :) You'll never want to fly nosewheel again (slight exaggeration maybe, but..) It's also good for your general flying.

If you get the chance, another recommendation is Gerrard L at YLTV (nr Melbs, I know.. not in your back yard!) Nice decathlon, excellent instructor, and a pretty useful aerobatic pilot too. They regularly do endorsements over the course of a weekend. Then, when you think you know it all, take a ride in a pitts. Absolute madness, but has to be experienced :D

If you know what your feet are for, 5hrs is excessive, let alone 10! It helps to go to a quiet country airfield where you can fly tight circuits close in all day without falling over other people.

Julien said...

Actually Mark, that's something I'm considering: instead of trying to squeeze flying training at a busy metropolitan airport within my schedule, why not block time to travel to a smaller airport and receive instruction there?

Victoria may be a bit far, but on the other hand that'd be a nice cross-country flight :-) Camden near Sydney may fit the bill, at least compared to Bankstown.

Garnavault Jean-Claude said...

C'est très sympa de ta part d'avoir mis un lien vers mon blog dans ce 'Post' et je t'en remercie.
Merci aussi d'apprécier mes vidéos (très modestes!) et désolé d'écrire ici, en français, mais je suis trop nul en anglais. En fait je suis en train de l'apprendre, tout seul, avec Assimil ! Ce qui me permet de lire ton blog (excellent) mais malheureusement de n'en déchiffrer qu'une partie.

Bons vols dans cette partie du monde exactement à l'opposé de la France :)

ps) je vais faire des efforts pour aller plus loin avec le Piper !

Julien said...

@Jean-Claude: félicitations pour te lancer dans l'apprentissage d'une langue étrangère, c'est jamais facile. Moi aussi je rame mais c'est avec l'allemand, j'ai promis de m'améliorer en 2010 étant donné que ma belle-famille habite Outre-Rhin.