Be careful when applying brakes in an old taildragger

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pelmet
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Be careful when applying brakes in an old taildragger

#1 Post by pelmet » Mon Oct 16, 2017 5:07 pm

Full disclosure......One of the dumb thing I have done was to try applying brakes on an old taildragger prior to the tail coming down. I immediately backed off the braking when I felt the tail coming up and fortunately things returned back to normal. I then realized how foolish I was, all just to try to make an early exit. And I knew better so it was very stupid.

Of course it is not only old taildraggers, it is really more taildragger specific. Apparently, a Helio-Courier is pretty much impossible to nose over due to its gear position. Other aircraft can be much more vulnerable depending on what I will call the CG to gear ratio(or whatever the appropriate term is). Brake effectiveness, terrain, among other things can affect you as well. Or maybe that engine mod that put a heavier, higher horsepower engine on the aircraft. A biplane can be worse with the fuel tank in the upper wing being full. And of course the CG, stuff in the baggage compartment possibly helping, solo front seat flying making things potentially worse.

While the full story is not known in the incident below, unfortunately the Sopwith Pup at the Langley Museum flipped over recently. Perhaps there was a fault in the system as that sort of thing can happen. But it is something worth talking about.

"C-FFMZ, a privately operated Sopwith Pup aircraft, was on a local flight returning to Langley Regional, BC (CYNJ) with only the pilot on board. When the pilot applied the brakes after the aircraft touched down on the runway, the tail came up. The pilot released the brakes however was unable to stop the aircraft from rocking forward and the aircraft flipped over onto its back. The propeller, engine cowling and vertical stabilizer were damaged. The pilot was not injured."

It really is best to let the tail down first and use brakes judiciously and only when necessary. Langley is a bit of a short runway in general. although I am not sure for this particular type, but one doesn't want to get in a position where significant braking is required if the aircraft is vulnerable to nosing or flipping over.

You really don't want to apply brakes when the aircraft is like this(the picture from a different landing)......

https://www.google.ca/search?q=langley+ ... JAPmEHWTdM:

Or you may end up like this....

http://www.theprogress.com/local-news/v ... l-airport/
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Re: Be careful when applying brakes in an old taildragger

#2 Post by Cat Driver » Mon Oct 16, 2017 5:29 pm

It is simple to determine how easy a small tail dragger will nose over when applying brakes with the tail in the air.

Just pick the tail up and hold it in the attitude you are concerned about.

If it is real light then you will have to be careful with the amount of brake you use to slow it down.

If it is heavy then you can be more aggressive.

I did a Texas Tail Dragger conversion on my Cessna Aerobat and that sucker was really tail heavy and braking after landing was no problem.
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Re: Be careful when applying brakes in an old taildragger

#3 Post by photofly » Mon Oct 16, 2017 5:38 pm

Or, you can just soften the brakes so they don't work so good any more. Presto-hey, no danger. :-)
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Re: Be careful when applying brakes in an old taildragger

#4 Post by DH82EH » Tue Oct 17, 2017 5:55 pm

When it comes to flying old taildraggers, I like the expression "brakes are for taxiways"
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#5 Post by bigsky » Tue Oct 17, 2017 6:21 pm

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Re: Be careful when applying brakes in an old taildragger

#6 Post by cgzro » Tue Oct 17, 2017 7:48 pm

"You really don't want to apply brakes when the aircraft is like this(the picture from a different landing)......"

Stick and Rudder, Langeweische, page 308, disagrees with this generalization, in fact there is an excellent discussion of very short landing techniques using brakes and two point and the advantages that are possible.
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Re: Be careful when applying brakes in an old taildragger

#7 Post by PilotDAR » Wed Oct 18, 2017 4:44 am

When it comes to flying old taildraggers, I like the expression "brakes are for taxiways"
That's my practice. I rarely use the brakes on the runway at all. I like wheel landings, but as a part of the plane is still flying, also applying brakes seems wrong, get all the wheels firmly on the ground before braking with caution.
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Re: Be careful when applying brakes in an old taildragger

#8 Post by AirFrame » Wed Oct 18, 2017 7:00 am

As they say, there are no absolutes... Every airplane is different. I have landed my RV-6 quite short (intentionally) using brake after touchdown with tail still in the air.

A Rocket pilot near me reports that wheel landing with a little bit of brake pressure *before touchdown* curbs the tendency of the airplane to skip off the runway back into the air. Not enough for the wheels to skid, just enough to put drag on the brakes when the wheels touch down.
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Re: Be careful when applying brakes in an old taildragger

#9 Post by Adam Oke » Wed Oct 18, 2017 8:40 am

I opened this thread expecting to read "Be careful when applying brakes in an old taildragger....because more then half of the time, they don't work!" -- Thus, like other posters have mention, I was taught to avoid using brakes "unless required". Required being; I need to keep the tail in the air for structural reasons (tail wheel issues). I also like to use brakes while wheel landings in more challenging wind conditions; I wheel land for better control, and slow down as quickly as possible with use of some braking. I will also use brakes if I flat out screwed up and need to spike a brake all while giving my head a shake, muttering "Damn it, Adam!". That is just to mention a few of very many times I have used brakes while flying old and new tail draggers.

I liken it to flying floats on the step and finding that balance point between flying the step vs digging in. So long as you can recognize that balance point and do not go beyond the point of no return -- I think it is perfectly acceptable.

Once upon a time, at an airport obnoxiously far far away from maintenance, I had a blown tail wheel that was right mangled on the rim. The Boss requested that I fire it up, pick up the tail, taxi to the runway, take off, land, and taxi to the hanger a short distance....all with the tail in the air. Right or wrong, the guy owns the airplane and I operated it as per request with the tail high in the air. Needless to say, brake application were required the majority of the time.
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Re: Be careful when applying brakes in an old taildragger

#10 Post by Cat Driver » Wed Oct 18, 2017 10:04 am

So long as you can recognize that balance point and do not go beyond the point of no return -- I think it is perfectly acceptable.
Not only is it acceptable it is mandatory, if you are flying a tail wheel airplane and you can not recognize this simple part of flying them you need to find someone who can teach you to recognize it.
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Re: Be careful when applying brakes in an old taildragger

#11 Post by pelmet » Wed Oct 18, 2017 2:05 pm

DH82EH wrote:When it comes to flying old taildraggers, I like the expression "brakes are for taxiways"
Actually, I disagree. The original post is about an experience in an aircraft you in particular are familiar with and I was braking for a taxiway. So how about brake as safely needed with emphasis on safely minimizing brake applications.
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Re: Be careful when applying brakes in an old taildragger

#12 Post by pelmet » Wed Oct 18, 2017 2:08 pm

Adam Oke wrote:I opened this thread expecting to read "Be careful when applying brakes in an old taildragger....because more then half of the time, they don't work!"
Good point. However I will clarify that my post is based on brakes that are working as designed and being used for slowing down.

Anybody have further info on what happened at Langley?
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