I was browsing images of aerobatic aircraft on Google and noticed that the vast majority of them have conventional "tail-dragger" landing gear.
Is there any practical reason why this is the case, or rather an aesthetic preference?
That’s an interesting question. We are students majoring in aeronautics at the University of Stuttgart in Germany. We’re not absolutely sure what the benefit of a taildragger is, but we have a few ideas.
Most aircraft have tricycle landing gear, probably because it’s easier to handle during take off and landing (it doesn’t matter in the air). It’s hard to maintain a straight line on the runway.
However, the taildragger offers one the opportunity to save some weight and to reduce drag. We haven’t seen any research about it, but it is obvious that you can save a little weight because nose gear would be heavier and produce more drag. The nose gear has to be more robust for hard landings.
Another point could be that you want to place a little more weight aft because the engine is one of the heaviest parts and it’s in the nose. You have to balance the weight of the aircraft with the engine to maintain the center of gravity.
Taildraggers are lighter and help with saving weight. But the primary reason is because of their symmetrical airfoils. Aerobatic planes have symmetrical airfoils because it acts the same way inverted as it does regularly. This allows the pilot to do inverted flying easier. However, symmetrical airfoils don't actually produce any lift at at a 0-degree angle of attack (going straight into the wind). They need to have a positive angle of attack for this to occur. A taildragger accomplishes this by angling the whole fuselage and, in turn, the airfoil, so that it can still generate lift on takeoff.
Fighter jets and related trainers outnumber (and outperform) light aerobatic aircraft, they all use tricycle gear.
Most aircraft were tail draggers until after WWII, so it's really an issue of the aircraft design dates to a period when everything had conventional gear. There are no particular advantages to it, but an airframe cannot be converted from one to the other (the balance would be off) so if you want a classic aerobat you also get the classic landing gear.