Tail Up, Missing the Point…December 13, 2012
I wrote a blog post the other day about the height off the deck of my prop when in flight attitude. The measurement was interesting with respect to how much clearance you have for a “tail up taxi.”
There was a lot of, “I would never,” and “this and that are stupid…” and “I don’t go outside because I’m afraid of traffic…” I guess what was disappointing was seeing the narrow mindedness of some opinions clouding point that I was trying to make. To me, as a low time tail wheel pilot, and an even LOWER back country pilot, this was interesting data. Data that would be good for all of us to keep in the backs of our heads.
When I was learning to fly tail, I did a number of high speed taxi exercises from one end of the numbers to the other. In fact I still do it. Keeps me sharp. When I started landing in the grass and was bouncing the hell all over the place, I would often cringe thinking that the wheel landing was going to bugger the prop. My instructor kept saying, “don’t worry…plenty of room.”
As the hook sunk deeper and I started aspiring to operate in the really rough, my questions again came to the surface… How much clearance did I had between bushes, bumps, berms etc… How tall was too tall?
With the C170 project, I gained quite a bit of height adding the larger tires and C180 gear. When I transferred the tires over to the Skywagon, I grabbed a before and after measurement, and in going from 6.00×6 to the 8.5x10s, I gained 5 inches over stock at the axles, with a total 3 point deck to prop clearance of 30″. But what about the wheel landing? How much clearance then?
A weight and balance on a tail dragger is a perfect time to grab this measurement. As it’s already in flight attitude, all you have to do is run the tape. In my case, leveled out as if in a perfect wheel landing, I had 18″ from deck to prop tip.
Now I know that taxiing around with the tail up could, by some, be seen as courting disaster. There are several vids on the web with guys digging holes in the tarmac with their props after showing off, but for every one of those, there are ten of a TW pilot looping his airplane simply trying to land. Net net… Flying is dangerous. But that wasn’t the point of my post. The point of the post was to open one’s mind to the outside parameters of the “safe zone.”
Getting as much data about your machine and your flying helps you become a better pilot. Thinking outside the box, at least in principle, helps us become better. And better, makes us safer, and thereby allowing us to have more fun.
And if you taxi every once and a while with your tail up and crack a bit of a smile… Well maybe that’s ok too.