Earning a tailwheel endorsement opens up a number of opportunities and additional aircraft to a pilot.
Please download and review our Training SYLLABUS (.pdf document).
Tailwheel training is not something to fear. It can be done safely, within reasonable margins, and will help you improve your overall flying skills, as well as give you access to an number of fun airplanes to fly.
Cost and Program
The cost varies by pilot ability, but the course should take about 6-12 hours. Expect the endorsement to be about $900-1,700. Don’t expect to do it in 3 or 4 hours. You simply can’t learn everything or expect to be proficient in such a short time. Keep in mind that some pilots could take up to 15 hours if they are either a slow learner or haven’t flown for several years. If you’re looking for a quick logbook entry then please look elsewhere. Though we don’t solo you in our plane, we do take you to a level where your abilities are sufficient to be the pilot in command. You’ll leave with confidence and a HUGE new skill!
What is a tailwheel endorsement?
To fly a plane with a tailwheel (conventional gear) rather than a plane with a nose wheel (tricycle gear), you are required to have an endorsement from a certificated flight instructor that you have received the appropriate flight training. There is an exception for pilots who flew tailwheel aircraft before 1991. For all pilots, Sport and Private Pilots alike, it is simply an endorsement in your log book.
Why should you get a tailwheel endorsement?
Landing on back-country grass strips can be a great adventure, allowing access to camping, fishing, hiking, etc. Tailwheel aircraft tolerate unpaved landing strips much better than aircraft with relatively fragile nose wheels. All of the FUN airplanes are tailwheel aircraft. From a J-3 Cub to a Pitts, the best airplanes have a little wheel in the back. Plus getting a tailwheel endorsement can double as your required bi-annual flight review (BFR), so you can get a little more training and pass off something you have to do anyway!
How is a tailwheel plane different?
Tailwheel aircraft have their CG behind the main wheels, which makes them more challenging to ground-handle, take-off, and land. It is very important to keep the aircraft aligned with the runway during the take-off and landing phase; if not, exciting things can happen! We explain why this happens and how to safely manage these situations.
The requirements for obtaining a tailwheel endorsement for Private Pilots are set by Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) and are stated as follows.
Additional training required for operating tailwheel airplanes (FAR Part 61.31(g))
- Received flight training from an authorized instructor which includes the following maneuvers and procedures:
- Normal and crosswind takeoffs and landings.
- Wheel landings (unless the manufacturer has recommended against such landings).
- Go-around procedures.
Now those are the requirements set forth by FAR Part 61.31(g), but we are here not to just teach the requirements, but to make you a safe pilot, so our program includes a bit more to make sure you are comfortable, confident, and SAFE!
- 3-Point Landings (full stall landings): 3 point landings are when all three wheels touch the ground at the same time (roughly). Sometimes the little tailwheel even touches first! These landings are very useful for grass or short runways. They also hone your skills with energy management, judging height, and “feeling” the airplane into the flare.
- Wheel Landings: Wheel landings are those where you touchdown on the two front main wheels first. These kind of landings give great visibility and good crosswind control. The drawback is the higher speed upon landing and they tend to use up more available runway. They also require a very shallow sink rate to the runway. Some aircraft require forward stick pressure to keep it glued on the ground. Aft elevator on touchdown will cause you to leap back into the air and either need to go around or convert it to a 3-point landing. However, once proficient, these landings can be the smoothest landings you have ever experienced. They are excellent for nervous passengers when done right as there is no “thump” on touch down.
- Normal, Crosswind, Soft-field and Short-field experience: Crosswind technique is extremely important for tailwheel aircraft because the aircraft needs every bit of your attention or it can get out of your skill range quickly. If you currently do cross wind landings using a “crab” then it’s time to learn the right way! We teach our students that crabbing is just fine for upwind, crosswind, downwind, and base legs, but once you are on a solid final approach that plane MUST stain aligned with the runway!
- Side Slips to landing: Learn the proper way to line up with the runway when cross winds are present. Most tri-gear pilots can’t do a proper side slip, we can help you learn this valuable technique. We have developed several excersizes to practice when the winds are calm or strong.
- Taxi skills: During a regular taxi the stick is always back, but things change when you have a noticeable wind. Taxiing into a headwind: “climb into” the headwind. It means stick back, left aileron for a left quartering headwind, right aileron for a right quartering headwind. Taxiing downwind: “dive away from the wind. Stick forward in a strong downwind condition and right aileron for a left quartering tailwind or left aileron for a right quartering tailwind
- Takeoff skills: Learn when it’s appropriate to push the stick forward and bring the tail up and when it’s better to just get the tail off the ground slightly and let the plane fly off the runway all on its own. We’ll teach you both ideologies and how to keep good rudder control to prevent weathervaning.
- Forward Slips to landing: These are FUN! Sometimes awkward at first if you haven’t done them before, but you’ll learn how to get into a tight spot without gaining airspeed. Or just lose a whole bunch of altitude the right way.
Do you need another reason to get a tailwheel endorsement?
Some insurance companies, such as Avemco Insurance, offer a Safety Rewards credit of 10% to any pilot who has a tailwheel endorsement, regardless of what type of airplane they own. Hundreds of accidents, each year are laid at the nose of the loss of directional control at slow airspeeds, ie: on takeoff and landing. Most are crosswind accidents but cobbling the power such as for go-arounds is another major cause. Cost to insurance companies: millions of dollars per year. The conclusion: insurance companies know that taildragger pilots have better control over their aircraft in the slow-flight speed regime.