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taildragger procedures

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Student Pilot

Where should the elevator be held during short and soft field take offs in a tail dragger and why?

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3 Answers



  1. Peter Black on Jan 04, 2018

    It depends on the model of aircraft, and how close its 3-point attitude is to a \”stall pitch attitude\”. (note the quotation marks) Some older models of taildragger will not fly off the runway in a three point attitude, and some will. In any case, the elevator position changes as the plane accelerates. The objective is to keep the mains from bearing an increase in load during the take-off roll. If the mains sink in, at best, it will increase the roll distance, and at worst, the airplane may pitch over the nose, and,…well you don\’t want that.

    Therefore, we add power with the stick back, then we we lift the tail (if necessary) to the MINIMUM pitch necessary to fly off the runway. But as the plane accelerates, the tail raises itself owing to increasing airspeed. We can let the tail rise during the roll, a LITTLE further…for the lack of a better description…about 1/2 as high as it \”wants to\” rise; the increase in airspeed will lighten the load on the mains even at a slightly lower pitch attitude. (We never push the tail up as far as \”normal\” during a soft-field take off roll.) Generally, we do not let the tail come up more than about 1/2 as high as we would from a hard surface.

    (I\’ve instructed in Taylorcraft, Citabria, Luscombe, Stinson 108, C-Birddog, C-180/185,many others. \’Own a Citabria, and feel it is a bit too forgiving, but a good trainer. To extinguish the \”driving\” instinct when swerving on a runway, try a Taylorcraft or Silvaire. We referred to them as \”Swift Justice\”!)

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  2. sfryzel on Jan 04, 2018

    I’m doing primary flight training in a Citabria. The POH is so old it doesn’t describe these procedures in detail. Thank you for your detailed explanation!

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  3. Brian on Jan 12, 2018

    I’ve far less experience than the previous poster. Also, you’re right about one thing, most Tailwheel aircraft have such antiquated handbooks that they are more useful for starting a fire in a remote location than learning how to fly your bird. Anyways, I digress.

    I was taught a powered 180 with the goal being to have the tail just out of the gunk and the power to full upon completion of the 180 degree turn. It’s quite aggressive and can easily put the nose in the dirt, so have someone who is familiar with such an aggressive technique if you plan learn it.

    The elevator is kept neutral/slight forward through the turn till about 30 degrees before runway alignment where the tail should rise and you put the elevator where ever is needed to keep it just an inch off the dirt. If you ever watch those guys that do big rocks long props then you will see this maneuver performed pretty much regularly anytime STOL is required from a remote location. You can analyze the position of their elevator as they spin around to see what I mean.

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