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This comes from a slightly related question about drag from landing gear.

A tail-dragger is the old-school layout of aircraft, particularly WW2-era fighters. It's also known as Conventional Landing Gear.

The first two landing gear is usually retractable, but the tail wheel is not.

At least, I have never seen such a configuration with a retractable tail wheel. Has there ever been one?

Note: question excludes now more common tri-cycles.

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    $\begingroup$ The majority of WW2-era aircraft do in fact have retractable tailwheels; certainly the ones designed within a few years of the war breaking out. $\endgroup$ – egid Nov 20 '16 at 3:29
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    $\begingroup$ @egid I contest that majority is not the right word to use here, but you do have a point that the number of designs with a tailwheel was not insignificant. $\endgroup$ – J Walters Nov 20 '16 at 4:03
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    $\begingroup$ I'm pretty sure it's the right word. Of the most-produced aircraft of the war, the only ones I've been able to confirm was only produced with a fixed tailwheel are the Hawker Hurricane, Avro Lancaster and Ilyushin Il-2. The He-111, B-17, P-51, P-47, Fw 190, Ju 88, Yak-3, and a large number of Bf 109 and Spitfires all were built with retractable tailwheels. I'm sure there are more with fixed tailwheels, but I maintain that the majority of WWII combat types had fully-retractable gear. The DC-3/C-47 was designed a bit too pre-war for me to consider it 'WW2 era'. $\endgroup$ – egid Nov 20 '16 at 5:22
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure you need to clarify, since your title (and question) both specifically call out 'taildragger'. $\endgroup$ – egid Nov 20 '16 at 6:29
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    $\begingroup$ Grumman F4F, Douglas SBD Dauntless, Curtiss SB2C Helldiver, Douglas TBD Devatastor - not retractable. Grumman F6F, Brewster F2A Buffalo - retractable. $\endgroup$ – Tony Ennis Nov 20 '16 at 14:21
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Yes, there are. The Boeing B-17 FLying Fortress is one example of an aircraft designed with a retractable tailwheel.

enter image description here Source: USAAF via Wikimedia, Public Domain (USGOV-PD)

Another example would be the Vought F4U Corsair:

enter image description here Source: Wikimedia, cc-by-sa-2.0

Doubtless there are also other examples of aircraft similarly equipped with retractable tailwheels.

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Concorde! Actually a "bumper". Obviously it was there to protect against over-rotation on takeoff, but the relevant item on the checklist was four greens, not three.

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    $\begingroup$ @ymb1 The term "tail dragger" is imprecise and contested. The Concorde did have a tail wheel, and did—however rarely—drag its tail on the tailwheel. I think this is a very valid answer, illustrating the vast variation within aircraft design! $\endgroup$ – J Walters Nov 20 '16 at 22:38
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    $\begingroup$ 'The term "tail dragger" is imprecise and contested.' — it is? $\endgroup$ – egid Nov 27 '16 at 3:06
  • $\begingroup$ @Egid Yes, by some accounts the term should only be used to refer to conventional gear aircraft equipped with a tail skid—at the exclusion of aircraft equipped with a tailwheel*—while other uses or definitions include any conventional gear aircraft—as such aircraft literally or figuratively *drag their tail. $\endgroup$ – J Walters Apr 18 '17 at 19:43
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As others have mentioned, yes.

Later in World War 2, speed and range became more important than weight and mechanical complexity; an extended tail wheel may be mechanically simpler to build, but adds quite a large amount of drag, affecting range and speed.

There are too many examples to list with links/photos of them all, but a short list of examples include:

  • Mitsubishi Zero.

  • P-51 Mustang.

  • P-40 Thunderbolt.

  • Later marks of the Supermarine Spitfire (around the MkVIII from memory; I spent 6 years working on a MkV restoration).

  • Some models of Messerschmitt BF.109. The F models were 'cleaned up' aerodynamically with retracting tail wheels, while the subsequent G models had a fixed wheel due to a bigger tyre for better ground handling, which didn't retract as on the F models. Later G and K models again used a retracting wheel to lessen the drag.

  • Notable for being an oddball in that it's a jet tail dragger and also equipped for aircraft carrier landings would be the Supermarine Attacker. There's an in-flight photo with the wheels up here.

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In addition to the military fighters listed above numerous civilian airplanes with conventional landing gear had retractable tailwheel, including the Beech Staggerwing, the Boeing 307, the Curtis C-46 and many others.

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the friedrich models, earlier gustav models of the 109 and kurfurst had retractable gear

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