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Almost 20 years ago I helped a friend ferry a 1948 Stinson from Córdoba, Argentina, to Buenos Aires. We had to make several stops to refuel (while classifying them by how many dogs and cats came out to greet us), and at one of the fields the crosswind component was rather strong. I can handle just about anything thrown at me when flying a tricycle gear aircraft, and went through taildragger endorsement training in a Citabria, but it was a challenge to get this bird safely on the ground.

Thinking about that today, I thought it would be good to gather guidance from experienced taildragger drivers on what is the recommended procedure to safely land a taildragger in a crosswind.

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    $\begingroup$ Approach and touchdown should be similar. On the roll-out once rudder authority is less than side force a little more brake on the lee side might help. But it might be good to have a little patch of clear area on the windward side in case it gets turned. $\endgroup$ – Robert DiGiovanni May 21 at 13:11
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    $\begingroup$ Oh I got turned alright, but it was at the final destination. It was dark, the chart said they had runway lights, but said squat about not having enough money to buy bulbs. I darn near landed on a road next to the field. Good thing the little store at the end was open and lighted. Nothing either about a dirt runway turned to mud. 450 degree groundloop, no damage. "Another happy landing in South America!" :) $\endgroup$ – Juan Jimenez May 21 at 13:14
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    $\begingroup$ I think some of you get carried away with policing the rules, such as they are. Probably half the stuff posted here is what I would call "informed opinion" or "tribal knowledge", not hard factual information with directly link-able sources. I mean, that's the whole point isn't it? To make the knowledge of insiders available to laypeople? Otherwise, just tell people to "look it up". $\endgroup$ – John K May 21 at 14:33
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    $\begingroup$ I think it's a good question. $\endgroup$ – quiet flyer May 21 at 19:02
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    $\begingroup$ That Stinson does have a huge fin doesn't it -- $\endgroup$ – quiet flyer May 21 at 19:06
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My favoured technique in strong crosswinds, perfected in many hours of glider towing in Super Cubs, Citabrias and Pawnees, is to wheel it on tail high, wing down, and balance it like that until the speed drops enough to lower the tail, then put the tail down and plant it firmly with aft stick.

In those conditions it's desirable not to have the wing at high AOA when ground contact and especially tailwheel contact (traction) is marginal, as you get when you do a 3 point landing. By wheeling it on (wing down obviously), you get firm mainwheel contact right away, AOA is low so gusts won't pop you back into the air, and you still have air rudder authority. The technique keeps the transition from air rudder authority to tailwheel ground traction as short as possible.

Wheel landings seem difficult but are actually easier than 3 point once you learn the trick (For the trick to be revealed, send 10$ to my Paypal @...). Actually, the trick is simply that you PUSH when the main wheels are a foot or two in the air. You'll go plop and won't bounce or skip. In a crosswind, it's a little trickier because you have to push while holding a sideslip and you find yourself balanced on the one into-wind tire, with your feet and hands going a mile a minute. As you slow down the other main wheel will come down, then as soon as you slow enough to be able to plant the tailwheel without becoming airborne again, you plant the tail and full aft stick.

Also, be ready to use brake during the rollout in case rudder and tailwheel authority are both insufficient to stop a swing (this can happen on wet grass for example).

Takes some practice, but once you perfect this technique you will have much more confidence in strong X winds.

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  • $\begingroup$ It's that "takes some practice" that gets me worried. 'Course, it calls for dual with a good instructor. :) $\endgroup$ – Juan Jimenez May 21 at 14:36
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    $\begingroup$ Best way is to find a glider club and join up to tow. Best skill honing activity you can possibly do for both landings and low speed handling in the air. $\endgroup$ – John K May 21 at 15:00
  • $\begingroup$ Oh, I feel another question coming... :) $\endgroup$ – Juan Jimenez May 21 at 15:07
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I've seen impassioned arguments for both wheel landings and 3-point landings for taildraggers in crosswinds, depending to some extent on the specific type of aircraft involved. Most arguments favor a wheel landing, but others point out that you will have a vulnerable moment as you are decelerating and the tail is starting to lower to the ground, where your rudder authority will be poor, so it's better to keep just the aircraft in the air till it's ready to land in a 3-point attitude, and then "plant" the tail as firmly as you can.

One thing is sure, you don't want to allow ANY sideways drift at the moment of touchdown. At the moment of touchdown, the nose MUST be aligned with the direction of the runway and the aircraft MUST not be drifting sideways toward either edge of the runway. In light-to-moderate crosswinds this is best accomplished with a wing-down cross-controlled slip. In strong crosswinds a combination of wing-down slip plus some crab, with the crab "kicked out" just before touchdown, may be feasible and may be the most effective technique in some tailwheel aircraft according to some authors (source, Plourde, "The Compleat Taildragger Pilot".)

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm pretty sure I've heard the case for 3-point landings in x-winds being made by at least one Stearman (PT-17) pilot in particular $\endgroup$ – quiet flyer May 21 at 17:06

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