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Model Airplane News - April 2013

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  • Airplane
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  • Rudder
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  • Servo
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  • Glue
  • Fuselage
  • Vibration
  • Tailwheel
Model Airplane News - April 2013

Tame Your Taildragger

Tame Your Taildragger Landing a Full-size Pitts Special Model Airplane News contributor and ace RC test pilot, Aaron Ham, recently started a new company ( to teach full-size aerobatic flight. Here are some of his thoughts about handling his short-coupled, highperformance Pitts S2C biplane. “One of the most exciting characteristics of a Pitts is its ground handling. I find that if I come over the numbers around 95-100mph, I get the best results by letting the airplane settle into ground effect, slowly bleed the power to idle, and try to patiently hold the airplane off the ground as long as I can. The mains obviously touch first, but I am in a nice nose-up attitude and will be touching down at the slowest possible speed. Although it is technically a 2-point landing, I don’t push the stick forward to keep the tail up. Doing so (even with the power at idle), still causes a bit of propeller gyroscopic procession causing the nose to yaw to the left. You need to counteract this with right rudder all Photo by Chris Goodrich while the elevator and rudder are losing effectiveness. If the tail touches down when the airplane isn’t straight, it can get a little exciting trying to keep it straight. With my technique, since the nose is up in the flare and all forward visibility is gone, I use my peripheral vision to keep the airplane heading straight with the runway. As the tail touches down, as long as I am tracking parallel with the runway, I don’t typically need much rudder input during the roll-out to keep it straight. I simply let the Pitts slow to a comfortable speed before needing to use rudder or brakes to clear the runway. The hardest thing is learning not to over control if a correction is needed. The Pitts is a very honest airplane with large control surfaces and will do exactly what you tell it to do. It can be a little challenging sometimes but I LOVE IT!” over nose-gear equipped airplanes: • Tailwheels are much smaller and lighter and cause less air drag while flying. • Tailwheel linkage is simple and straightforward. • Tailwheels absorb landing impacts better than nosewheels do because they touch the ground at slower airspeeds; when the tail comes down, much of the speed has been dissipated. Types of tailwheels A tailwheel can be attached directly to the rudder or to the bottom of the fuselage and then connected indirectly with linkage to the rudder for steering control. I prefer the fuselage attachment because the indirect connection to the rudder isolates the rudder hinges and steering servo from the jolts and loads associated with taxiing, takeoffs and landings. A simple strap or some rubber bands and a small length of dowel glued into the rudder make quick and easy to maintain connections. For scale planes, the most common way to attach the tailwheel’s tiller arm to the rudder is with a pair of springs. When the tailwheel is positioned below the rudder, the springs prevent the rudder from being damaged by side loads. Some setups use a single solid pushrod to connect the rudder to the wheel’s tiller arm but this also transfers much of the loads to the rudder, hinges, and servo. With big warbirds, and other aircraft whose tailwheels are some distance in front of the rudder hinge line, separate internal pushrods or cables directly attached to the rudder servo are used. This setup can also be used with a separate steering servo driven with a Y-harness connected to the rudder servo channel. If you haven’t tried a tail-dragger before, talk to some of your flying buddies and see how they do it. Then go ahead and give it try. Once you master tail-draggers, you’ll be able to fly and land anything. All it takes to be successful is a little understanding and some practice. Available in several sizes, this easy-to-install tailwheel assembly is from Sullivan Products. A single long tiller spring connects the top of the assembly to the rudder and helps isolate the rudder hinges and servo from landing loads. (Sullivan wheel sold seperately.) 38 MORE FROM THIS ISSUE AT MODELAIRPLANENEWS.COM

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