Tips for taking off with a tail dragger - RC Groups
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Feb 26, 2013, 02:24 PM
KV4PL, FAA 107 Certified
FloridaFlyBob's Avatar

Tips for taking off with a tail dragger

All the planes I've ever flown, full scale or RC have had a nose gear. I'm still somewhat sloppy on my take off's. Any tips or pointers are welcome
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Feb 26, 2013, 02:37 PM
Registered User
Most of my models are tail-draggers, and the way I take off is to hold a lot of up elevator until the model gets moving. With some models that's crucial, to stop it from nosing over when the power is applied (gently!), but with all models it seems to help them run straight because the tail being pushed to the ground acts a bit like a sea anchor.

Once the speed builds up a little, the elevator must be returned to neutral. By that time the model should have enough speed that the rudder will steer it well. If left to its own devices, a properly trimmed tail-dragger will probably lift its tail as the speed increases, and then eventually take off of its own accord. No harm in giving it a bit of help with some up elevator though, as soon as you're sure it's reached a decent flying speed.
Feb 26, 2013, 03:19 PM
Illegitimi non carborundum
grosbeak's Avatar
Be aware of crosswinds. The plane will track straight while the tail wheel is on the ground but as soon as that wheel comes up the plane will want to turn into the wind - it's called "weathervaning"and it happens when the crosswind pushes the on the vertical stabilizer. Be ready to apply rudder in the opposite direction. The slower the airplane is moving when the tail comes up, the more rudder you'll need.
Feb 26, 2013, 03:21 PM
Hope to get out of life alive
kenh3497's Avatar
A little right rudder will be needed to counteract the torque reaction of the propeller through the ground roll (tail up) and the climb out.
Feb 26, 2013, 03:46 PM
Registered User
Keep it straight! It sounds simple but that's all there is to it. If you're having to think "It's going left, I need right rudder", you're already behind. You have to react instantly to any small deviation from straight, without overreacting.

What abenn said about the elevator is important. I taxi with the elevator full-up as well (except in a strong tailwind, in which it would be full-down). As you advance the throttle on the takeoff roll, relax the back pressure, and smoothly move the stick forward, and depending on the plane, a little down-elevator won't hurt. On the full-scale tail-wheel planes I fly, I actually have the stick far forward after I bring the tail up, with no danger of striking the prop, but models tend to have proportionately larger control surfaces than full-scale and may have enough down elevator for a prop strike.

Bringing up the tail lets the plane speed up more quickly because there is less drag. Shortly after the tail is up you should be able to gently lift off with up-elevator.

You can also hold the elevator full-up and let the plane just rise off the ground, but you have to be ready to relax the stick quickly to get the nose down once it's up and out of ground effect.

I actually have a lot less experience with tail-wheel models compared to full-size, and before the first flight of my Escapade, I did a lot of taxiing, gradually increasing the speed, to find the point where the tail would lift.

The propeller is a gyroscope, and when a gyro is tilted, there is a reaction 90 degrees to the plane of rotation. In short, when you lift the tail, the plane tries to veer left - and it happens when the tail comes off the ground but the rudder is still not high enough to have the most airflow, so you want to get it level as quickly as possible so the rudder has more effect. You just have to be ready for it. The effect is greater the higher the power-to-weight ratio.

I learned full-scale tail-wheel on an east/west runway in an area with north/south prevailing winds, and I had to be ready to react to changing wind as hangars alternately blocked and allowed it. It's just a matter of keeping it straight without overcontrolling, full-scale or RC.

If there is a crosswind, a little bit of aileron into the wind is helpful. That puts weight on the upwind wheel and prevents drift, but you still have to prevent the plane from yawing into the wind. The rudder tends to be very active!
Feb 26, 2013, 05:07 PM
KV4PL, FAA 107 Certified
FloridaFlyBob's Avatar
Thanks for the advice, I'm much better on the sim. The field I fly at is pretty busy and getting out and taxing around is a little tough. I have a 35ccplane a 20cc and a electric and there all tail draggers i'd better learn how to take off. About 25 years ago, I bought a 2 seater Ultralight, that was a tail dragger, On my first takeoff attempt one of the springs in the tail wheel had fallen off and I fould out what a ground loop was.
Last edited by FloridaFlyBob; Feb 28, 2013 at 07:25 PM.
Feb 26, 2013, 06:01 PM
I'm a pilot, 100 yrs too late
Thermalin's Avatar
I find that the flight sims seem to have this bit of functionality or aerodynamics lacking.. I have never had to use rudder on takeoff with sim... not so in the real world even flying the same model (sim and real)
Feb 27, 2013, 02:55 AM
Registered User
Originally Posted by jbryan80
... You can also hold the elevator full-up and let the plane just rise off the ground, but you have to be ready to relax the stick quickly to get the nose down once it's up and out of ground effect....
For many models I would disagree with that bit: A little bit of up elevator, maybe; but holding full up sometimes makes the model lift off before it's ready and, before you have time to react and relax the stick, it's in a stall and heading back to earth
Feb 27, 2013, 07:32 AM
Registered User
you could try opening the throttle a little more slowly, for one it will give you time to ease off the 'up' as the speed builds and also it will reduce the rate at which it tends to swing owing to the torque and spiral slipstream effects. I find electric bipes particularly bad for swinging as the prop accelerates to max revs so quickly and they're prone to ground looping at the best of times.
Feb 27, 2013, 08:38 AM
Registered User
Originally Posted by abenn
For many models I would disagree with that bit: A little bit of up elevator, maybe; but holding full up sometimes makes the model lift off before it's ready and, before you have time to react and relax the stick, it's in a stall and heading back to earth
It depends. I have a tiny Cub that will get so squirrelly I can't keep it straight without full up-elevator, because it is so light. Caution is certainly in order!
Feb 27, 2013, 10:15 AM
Registered User
LesUyeda's Avatar
With tail draggers, a little toe in helps immensely.

Feb 27, 2013, 12:01 PM
supreme being of leisure
ZAGNUT's Avatar
toe in and butt-loads of expo on the rudder. depending on the plane i might also set up a separate flight mode for take off with throws and expo like i want. that being said, most of my planes just have a rigid tail skid or wheel and get airborne in a few feet or less on the actual take off "run"
Feb 27, 2013, 12:55 PM
Registered User
It really depends on the model too. I have a few taildraggers that go pretty straight with little rudder input needed. Then I have a few that require more attention from me and if I don't hold my tongue just right I'm doing S turns at lift off
Feb 27, 2013, 01:09 PM
team sleprock
whiskykid's Avatar
well since my son-inlaw crashed my somewhat trainer, I am left with nothing but tail draggers!

and they all have just a lil bit different charicteristics!

now with that said, the best tip I can give ya IS! wait for it, "PRACTICE"!

ya that's right practice! it would be hard to put into words now, since it just comes naturaly to me, but heres what I remember from when I was being taught!
hold up elevator, point plane into the wind, slowly apply throttle, slowly release the elevator, letting the tail come up, keep plane strait by adding a lil right rudder! when you have built up enough speed, slowly pull back on elevator, and your flying!

the good news is, with practice, it will become second nature to ya!
Feb 27, 2013, 08:20 PM
2 many planes & 2 little time
scootrb4's Avatar
Right rudder, right rudder. tail draggers all.

As others have said apply throttle cautiously while leaning on the rudder as needed to keep her headed in the right direction. Don't be in a hurry to take off but do hasten to get the tail up and the elevator neutral. The continue adding speed as you sail down the runway, (this reduces the need for rudder) when speed is up and travel is straight ease back on the elevator, hold still when she lifts off and apply the remaining throttle, Rudder should be in neutral again before lift off .
(pass on the expo or low speed rudder servo)
Done well it's a feeling of accomplishment.......
Last edited by scootrb4; Feb 27, 2013 at 08:30 PM.

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