Getting a Tailwheel Endorsement


Last year I was standing by a hangar at a local airport and I watched a big, rotary- engine Stearman land on the grass right in front of me. The Stearman touched down on its two front wheels and then kept its tailwheel off the ground for what seemed like forever. Finally that tailwheel gently lowered to the ground. It was the smoothest maneuver. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was what was called a “wheel landing”—and it looked so controlled, so graceful, that I immediately wanted to be able to do one.

That’s how I decided on a tailwheel endorsement.

AOPA has listings for all different types of ratings—did you know that? Seaplanes, taildraggers, multi-engine, their website will give you airports where you can get your training. There are three tailwheel schools in MD; Freeway, Harford County and Frederick. But Lancaster has one too.

A tailwheel endorsement does not require a minimum number of flight hours, and can possibly be completed with a relatively smaller number of flight hours. Normal and crosswind takeoffs and landings are required for the sign-off.

Many things have been said about flying taildraggers, but one rings very true for me: I have learned to use that right rudder more. Rudder action is amplified on the ground and as you take off and land, with left turning tendencies and gyroscopic precession. Because the center of gravity is further back, you have to concentrate on keeping the plane going straight down or to the runway. “Tap dancing” on the rudder, with small inputs on either side, helps.

Small inputs on everything, like power, trim and the stick, are also really important. You gain that light hand, as the plane is so responsive to tiny inputs. And small inputs make you feel like the plane is part of you, which is always my goal.

With any new rating, and any new skill, you will keep learning to be a better pilot.

Interested in more? Recommend– “Transition to Tailwheel Airplanes” in the FAA Airplane Flying Handbook.

Another reference is “The Complete Taildragger Pilot” by Harvey Plourde.

If you would rather watch a video than read a book, it is hard to beat Damian DelGaizo’s Tailwheel: 101 and Tailwheel: 201.