#9 Three-Point or Wheelie?

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Tailwheeler’s Journal # 9
Was that a wheelie or a three-point?

I am on the receiving end of lots of viral emails, many of which contain videos. I’ll often get the same one from several people. Don’t get me wrong: I’d rather get several of them than not get them at all. I got one a few weeks ago that contained video of a bush pilots’ rendezvous up in Alaska. Here’s the link, in case you haven’t seen it:

There are a couple of techniques demonstrated in this video that I think are worth our study. The takeoff illustrates the importance of lowering the nose after liftoff during a short field takeoff in order to accelerate in ground affect. This gives the pilot maneuverability in the event of an engine failure as well as more control in turbulence, the ability to zoom over obstacles and make a higher “g” turnout.

But it’s the landing that got my attention. I have mildly criticized one of my students because she would initiate a three point landing, touch down and then push to raise the tail. I wanted her to keep that elevator back in order to demonstrate a “proper” three point landing. She may not have been doing the landing by the book, but by raising the tail right after touchdown, she was getting the better of two techniques and I think we should all put this operation in our techniques toolbox. She would make a three point landing, thus touching down at as slow a speed as possible. Then she’d push, transferring the weight of the plane onto its main gear and making its brakes as effective as they could be. You can’t make a shorter landing using any other technique. It’s well-explained in Wolfgang Langewiesche’s “Stick and Rudder” as well as in “Brian’s Flying Book”. The proof is in the bush pilots’ video.

Use of brakes in a short field landing is an operation that scares many pilots. They are rightfully concerned about putting the aircraft on its nose. As a teacher I share the concern and get on my toes when teaching this technique. But I think it’s important and I believe I may teach it more than I have in the past.

Just remember that the risk of contacting the ground with the prop is very real when airspeed decreases and coordinated use of elevator to prevent that event is very important. Be very careful about practicing this one!

Happy Swooping (and braking),