11
$\begingroup$

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.

$\endgroup$
11
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ 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
    Commented Nov 20, 2016 at 3:29
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @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 W
    Commented Nov 20, 2016 at 4:03
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ 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
    Commented Nov 20, 2016 at 5:22
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure you need to clarify, since your title (and question) both specifically call out 'taildragger'. $\endgroup$
    – egid
    Commented Nov 20, 2016 at 6:29
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Grumman F4F, Douglas SBD Dauntless, Curtiss SB2C Helldiver, Douglas TBD Devatastor - not retractable. Grumman F6F, Brewster F2A Buffalo - retractable. $\endgroup$
    – Tony Ennis
    Commented Nov 20, 2016 at 14:21

7 Answers 7

14
$\begingroup$

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.

$\endgroup$
11
$\begingroup$

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.

$\endgroup$
3
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ @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 W
    Commented Nov 20, 2016 at 22:38
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ 'The term "tail dragger" is imprecise and contested.' — it is? $\endgroup$
    – egid
    Commented Nov 27, 2016 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 W
    Commented Apr 18, 2017 at 19:43
8
$\begingroup$

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.

$\endgroup$
3
$\begingroup$

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.

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

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

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

The Bf-109E-4's did not have retractable tailwheel, but the Friedrich which came after the E did have retractable tailwheel. The G had a larger tailwheel to improve the on ground handling that was difficult because of the narrow track undercarriage. This made the tailwheel unretractable. The P-51s, many variants of spitfires, Fw-190, many P-47s, the P-36s, (which were not in service with the US but were with the French), most Yakolev fighters as mentioned above, the F4U, the Zero, the Ki-84 and many others.

The Stuka had no retractable landing gear but part of the reason was that the huge landing gear was used to reduce the airspeed in a dive.

In conclusion, most fighters and many aircraft of WWII had retractable tailwheels.

$\endgroup$
1
  • $\begingroup$ I think that the P-40 had a retractable tailwheel too $\endgroup$
    – J Lopez
    Commented Jan 4, 2021 at 17:40
1
$\begingroup$

A few more examples are the Soviet Tu-2 front line bomber (fully retractable) and the Il-10 attacker (partially retractable, i.e.: it folded into the fuselage but did not have a fairing).

Tu-2, note the tailwheel bay doors: Tu-2 at the China Aviation Museum, from Wikipedia

Il-10, note the folded tailwheel: Czech Il-10 in flight, from http://www.theworldwars.net/

$\endgroup$

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .