Tailwheel Instruction

Mike Gilbert, a private pilot student, on the beach at Copalis with "Molly". Copalis is one of the only State airports in the US, where you can land right on the beach!

What about Tailwheel flying?

Tailwheel flying (conventional gear) is more demanding than flying a tricycle gear airplane because the geometry of a tailwheel airplane's landing gear is less stable than that of a nose wheel airplane. Sound scary? Sound too tough for a beginner? It isn't when you consider that hundreds of thousands of people learned to fly in J-3 Piper Cubs and Maules just like these. Learning to fly tailwheel is a lot like learning to drive a manual transmission: If you learn the manual first, it's simple to go to the automatic transmission later. Learn tailwheel first, and nose wheel airplanes are a piece of cake. It's a little harder to learn from the beginning, and in the end you will be a much better pilot. A Tailwheel conversion is an excellent way to do a fun biennial flight review, brush up on your flying skills, or improve your landings in nose wheeled airplanes! Flight training time is not affected by the use of a tailwheel airplane.

Why don't most schools teach it?

Most schools don't teach tailwheel because the number of qualified tailwheel instructors has declined along with the number of tailwheel airplanes. Also the insurance rates for tailwheel instruction is much higher than tricycle geared planes. Taildraggers have also gathered an undeserved reputation over the years as difficult to fly, so many schools shy away from them. Taildraggers are our specialty. In all the years of instruction we have never had an accident with any student during training.

Why should I learn?

Everyone should learn tailwheel because it will make you a much better pilot. The geometry and physics of the tricycle airplane will allow a pilot to make sloppy landings, and the plane will make corrections for them. The tailwheel plane will not be so forgiving, and must be landed properly. The difference is the center of gravity in a tricycle plane is in front of the main landing gear, and in the tailwheel it is behind the main gear.

How long does it take?

The FAA requires a tailwheel endorsement for anyone wanting to fly tailwheel airplanes. The tailwheel endorsement can usually be accomplished in 2 - 5 hrs depending on the student, but most people will want to gain more proficiency and skill. Your currency, abilities, previous training all vary the amount of time for the transition. The signoff and requirements are up to the instructor and the student, depending on how proficient you want to be. If you are thinking about flying a specific airplane, your insurance may require a certain amount of tail time.

How much does it cost?

So much depends on you, how current you are, etc. Also it depends on how proficient you want to be at tailwheel flight. Call for current rental & instruction rates.

If I come to Vashon, where can I stay?

There are numerous bed & breakfasts here on Vashon Island that you can stay at or we can make arrangements to have you stay with my wife and I in our spare bedroom and treat you to gourmet breakfasts. We can also share with you some gourmet dinners paired with the best local wines. Check out www.palousewinery.com

Can you travel to me?

Yes on occasions I do travel to your location for intensive training sessions or group lessons. Please call and we can discuss the arrangements.