I'm working towards my tail wheel rating and enjoying it greatly. But, people ask me why some planes have a conventional landing gear (tail wheel).

Why indeed? I understand perhaps why they had them originally, but is it just historical reasons? Seems like maybe it can have slightly lighter gear and perhaps simpler design, but I'm wondering if there are deeper reasons.

  • $\begingroup$ possible duplicate of Why do most aerobatic aircraft have conventional landing gear? $\endgroup$ Sep 11, 2014 at 16:30
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ the dup is for aerobatic aircraft, this is for aircraft in general. $\endgroup$
    – Peter
    Sep 11, 2014 at 18:06
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ @Peter if there is a near dup it is good to mention it in your Q and explain why your Q is different. $\endgroup$
    – casey
    Sep 11, 2014 at 19:38
  • $\begingroup$ Just FYI it's a tailwheel endorsement not a rating. $\endgroup$
    – ABC123
    Sep 11, 2014 at 20:56
  • $\begingroup$ @JimA depends on jurisdiction and type of license. $\endgroup$
    – falstro
    Sep 12, 2014 at 19:33

3 Answers 3


Ratchet freak gives already most of the reasons. I might add that on a grass field the taildragger is easier to handle. The relatively high drag and long lever arm of the tailwheel or skid will help to pull the aircraft straight at low speeds when rudder control power is low. On a hard surface, however, the tricycle gear is easier to handle. Also, not only the weight, but also the drag of two wheels is less than that of three.

If you look at modern airplane designs, those where weight must be kept low (like aerobatic planes) still have a taildragger gear. It is also used in gliders and motor gliders, because they will operate mostly from grass strips and do not want to include internal space to accommodate three retractable wheels.

Big taildragger designs from the early days vanished with the emergence of concrete runways from the 1930s on and the need to brake more during rollout when wing loadings and landing speeds went up. On concrete runways, the tricycle gear handles better and gives much better visibility. Without the ability to brake hard, the rollout lengths of taildraggers would prohibit todays wing loadings. With retractable gears the drag disadvantage is no more, and the increased weight can be tolerated.


It's a fiery debate.

One of the reasons for the taildragger design is indeed weight. There is also that the plane will naturally sit at a positive angle of attack and will keep the propeller further off the ground. Rotation is assisted by gravity because the CoG is behind the wheels. Also getting a tailstrike on takeoff isn't critical.

The reasons for the nose wheel design is increased control during takeoff (with the tail dragger there is a period where the tailwheel is off the ground and yaw control is up to the rudder)


Some nose wheel gears are fragile and would not survive well on unpaved runways. Also the distribution of weight is a factor. There is less weight on a tail wheel than a nose wheel. Therefore most of the weight of a conventional gear aircraft is split between the mains. Use of a conventional gear on an soft runway eliminates the issue of the nose wheel digging into the surface.


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