#19 Correcting the Correction

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The Tailwheeler’s Journal No. 19
Correcting the correction

What’s so challenging about tailwheel flying? Most pilots will tell you that it’s simply keeping the durn thing straight on the ground and avoiding the dreaded ground loop. So let’s take a look at what we do to keep the plane straight.

In Brian’s Flying Book, there is a section on “the One-Footed Takeoff”. The point of this maneuver is that we all have a tendency to overcorrect with rudder when rolling out after a landing or even on a takeoff roll. The one footed takeoff eliminates over- correction by eliminating left rudder. We put our left foot on the floor and count on left yawing tendency (incorrectly called “left-turning tendency”) to yaw the airplane to the left while right rudder makes corrections to the right. The philosophy behind this technique is the same as George DeMartini’s “Ratcheting Elevator”, where we imagine that the elevator has a ratchet that limits any forward movement of the stick. The Ratcheting Elevator keeps us from over-flaring and the One-Footed Takeoff is designed to keep us from over-ruddering. They are both psychological tools.

I once helped a tailwheel student keep it straight by pointing out that every time the airplane swerved left he would apply right rudder, after which the airplane would veer right and he needed to understand that the left rudder had to be ready. In his case, there was no excuse for not catching that veer to the right, cause it happened every time! He MADE it happen. All he had to do was get off that right rudder once he’d stopped the veer to the left.

Many years ago, George Holberton gave me some dual in a Cessna 170. He told me to avoid the rookie error of correcting corrections by simply neutralizing the rudder once a veer was stopped. When your corrective rudder stops a veer, the airplane will come back in the opposite direction unless you get off that rudder. I think he may have smacked my kneecaps with a two by four to reinforce the lesson. We all have our own teaching style.

Flying is full of over-corrections. We over-flare during landing. We close too fast on a formation re-join. We?ll sit there like a bump on a log cruising at altitude, then make corrections like crazy as we get close to the ground during an approach. Maybe the lesson we need to learn is that we are our own worst foe when it comes to precision flying. Maybe we all need to learn to get out of our own way, relax and only correct what needs to be corrected.

Happy Swooping.