How is it possible that the MIG 21 has the rudder to the left, but the nose wheel moves freely to the right, and then straight or to the left on the runway?

See timestamp 1 min 11 sec in this video:


Davidw mentioned the book "Red Eagles". It has a passage about steering the MiG-17 and says the MiG-21 used exactly the same system. In the following passage, he is quoting pilot Jose Oberle.

Red Eagles: America's Secret MiGs, Steve Davies, 2011

Taxiing the airplanes was a bit of a trick. If you wanted to turn right, you pushed the left rudder bar in and you pulsed this lever on the control stick. That dumped the pneumatic pressure to the brake on the left wheel and transferred it to the right wheel. You would get the free-swinging nose wheel to start to turn to the right, and then as you got ready to come out of that turn you'd have to push the left rudder bar past neutral and you'd have to start pumping the little paddle again to get the power back on the left wheel, to get the nose to straighten out so you could taxi straight!

Per this, the nosewheel is not part of the steering system.

  • $\begingroup$ The directions don't check out—it says to turn right you first push left rudder and then to straighten out again you push the left rudder again? $\endgroup$ – Jan Hudec Jan 22 at 14:25
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    $\begingroup$ @JanHudec You push the left rudder and dump the pressure. $\endgroup$ – Sneftel Jan 22 at 14:44
  • $\begingroup$ @Sneftel and then you push left again, but pump the pressure the other way? Is that how you understand it? $\endgroup$ – Jan Hudec Jan 22 at 14:45
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    $\begingroup$ @JanHudec Essentially, yeah. I don't fully grok the description, but it seems like you're using the pneumatic pump as a pressure release the first time, and as an actual pump the second time. $\endgroup$ – Sneftel Jan 22 at 14:48
  • $\begingroup$ You got the directions wrong. If you want to turn right, you push the RIGHT pedal and depress the brake lever. This will apply right braking through a brake differential valve and make the nose wheel go right as it is free castoring. In the video the pilot applied full left rudder or pedal to straighten the nose after the right turn. $\endgroup$ – Anas Maaz Feb 12 at 19:10

Most larger jet aircraft do not have a full time link between rudder pedals and nosewheel steering. In planes I have flown there is a nosewheel steering button on the control stick. It is spring loaded, and as long as it is held down (i.e. during taxi and initial take-off roll) the nosewheel will steer with the rudder pedals.

This is done because the steering sensitivity needed to make a 90 degree turn taxiing at low speed would be way too much on the runway at high speed. For smaller GA aircraft this isn't so much of an issue, and the relative simplicity of not needing a method of disconnecting the two overrides any small advantage.

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    $\begingroup$ So, presumably, at the moment in question in the video, the button is not pressed, and the nosewheel is in free-swivel mode, and the turn is being accomplished with differential braking? (Answer might benefit from including some of this-- or providing alternate explanation if this is wrong. Is there a nosewheel steering "tiller"?) $\endgroup$ – quiet flyer Jan 21 at 17:44
  • $\begingroup$ @Quiet Flyer, why are you presuming that the NWS button is not pressed? And I agree that it could have a free castering nosewheel, controlled by differential braking, but I have not flown a Mig-21 so I can't confirm. And typically tillers are only used on much larger aircraft. $\endgroup$ – Michael Hall Jan 21 at 17:52
  • $\begingroup$ Due to the rudder and nosewheel being deflected in opposite directions, as per the original question-- $\endgroup$ – quiet flyer Jan 21 at 18:06
  • $\begingroup$ OK, I see. Well, I won't try to guess what kind of system it has. I think my answer might be useful for someone with only Cessna 172 type knowledge and experience. I will let it ride for now and let the votes play out... If anyone severely trumps me with a credible answer I can always delete it later. $\endgroup$ – Michael Hall Jan 21 at 18:10
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    $\begingroup$ It might very well be a free castering nosewheel with no steering function at all, and that's the assumption I made watching the video (all the Grumman general aviation airplanes are like that). Even the B-29 had a free castering non-steerable nosewheel, making it quite a challenge to maneuver at low speed. Also the Martin B-26 IIRC. $\endgroup$ – John K Jan 22 at 1:57

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