Light airplanes either have two wheels just a bit behind the center of gravity and one in front, or they have two wheels way in front of the center of gravity and a much smaller one at the tail. This sounds like a minor difference but it does make for dramatically different handling.
In the tricycle configuration, the airplane just rolls on the ground much like a car. On take-off it will accelerate until it has reached a critical speed at which it can be lifted off the ground.
The tail wheel aircraft will start flying from the tail to the front during the take-off run. The steering on the ground is done with the tail wheel. So it handles much like a car in reverse. It takes some practice!
The landing is either straight on the two main wheels until the tail settles down or on all three wheels at the same time. Each way has its own complications, but I learn the three point landings first.
Make better landings
Alan Bramsons book “Make better landings” was recommended to me as a good resource. Unfortunately it has been out of print for a long time but I could find it online. The chapter about tail wheel landings was a very good preparation for the first lesson on the actual thing.
To be continued…
(originally posted on August 26, 2011 by tilbo at aloft.blog.com/make-better-landings/)