Why do a Tail-Wheel Course?

Adrian Willis
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Being an aviation enthusiast, I enjoy bringing the joy of aviation to others. I feel that the enjoyment of pure flying is being forgotten or lost. In most cases todays pilots just do not realise what they are missing. I would like to describe the merits of our magnificent 1946 Cessna 140 so that others can be inspired to taste the difference. Certainly a Tail-Wheel Course in our Cessna 140 will make you a better pilot, introduce you to real flying and give you an enormous smile. You never know, it might even encourage you to take the next step and have a go in our Extra!

In 1946 women were not encouraged to drive for road safety reasons and pilots were thought of as having special skills. It was simply accepted that not everyone had “the right stuff” necessary to be a “being of the third dimension”. Of course we now appreciate that to a great extent this myth was adopted to cover the inadequacy of weak instructors but it did mean aircraft design was not optimised for ease of flying.

The Cessna 140 is remarkably efficient being capable of carrying 2 adults and modest baggage at 110 mph for over 4 hours, giving it a range of 450+ miles. All of this on 85 hp! It was equipped for night and limited IFR and was real fun to fly. Of course it is not easy to fly, the wing was uncompromising and if you change power, speed or stick position you need to move your feet to keep it in balance. Flying with 85 hp demands you keep the ball in the middle. There is no DI so flying with a magnetic compass has to be mastered and leads to better Nav technique.

Landing a tail wheel aircraft is more demanding than a nose wheel equivalent. Several factors contribute to this, the centre of gravity is behind the main wheels making it directionally unstable. So if it goes to the left a little, it will want to go further left. Also the view forward is often not fantastic and braking is not encouraged to prevent inadvertent nosing over. The obvious question is why bother? Well a nose wheel is big, draggy and heavy and the structure to support it is also heavy. A better compromise for performance aircraft is a tail-wheel and as a consequence all good aerobatic aircraft are tail-wheel and most farm strip aircraft are too. Remember also that pilots are superior beings and there is no problem with mastering tail-wheel landings!

The Cessna 120/140 made the Cessna name. The aircraft were cheap (3,459 USD) fast and a lot of fun to fly. Cessna made a lot of them (7,664 over 5 years) The Cessna 170 was simply a 4 seat 140 with a bigger engine. As time moved on, Cessna decided that to gain the mass market, their aircraft should be as easy to fly as cars are to drive. They started off by moving the wheels forward, they dumbed down the wing, put more twist in it so that the root stalled way before the tips, they changed to nose wheel and all the time added more power until the magnificent 140 evolved into the rather lower performance, very easy to fly and dull Cessna 152. Of course losing along the way a lot of the joy of flying.

It is naturally difficult to describe this joy to somebody that has not experienced it. Perhaps a good analogy is navigation. Before the introduction of GPS, low level navigation was an art and significant satisfaction was gained by arriving at the correct location. Of course today we just follow the magenta line but we do not get that sense of satisfaction. Few sensible people would advocate dumping the GPS but certainly getting back to pure flying by mastering tail-wheel in an aircraft like our wonderful Cessna 140 has no downside. It will make you a better pilot and give you a huge grin.

Our Cessna 140 costs £130 per hour without an instructor and £150 per hour dual. A typical Tail-Wheel course would last 5 hours but many pilots prefer additional training.

Of course we would be delighted to deliver the full PPL course in this magnificent aircraft and certainly any student would be a much better pilot for it!

To book training or to buy a tail-wheel experience voucher for a Christmas present, contact Adrian.Willis@BritishAerobaticAcademy.com 0771 2864413

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