How To Fly A Tail Wheel Aircraft

In the next few blogs we will take a look at learning how to fly a tail wheel aircraft.

This year Air Venture will be celebrating the 80th anniversary of the Piper Cub and once again J-3’s will be gathering for a mass arrival at Oshkosh.  It really is quite a sight to see.   The Cub is as popular today as it was so many years ago.

Piper Cub What makes this aircraft so popular?

It is after all a tube and fabric aircraft, which is slow, uncomfortable, and void of all the modern gadgets.  But after flying and instructing in a Cub for years we know why this little airplane remains a bucket list item.

The basic Cub is powered by a Continental A-65 engine, produces 65hp (on a really good day) and mates to a wood Sensenich propeller.  It is an under powered aircraft, and this is the reason why engine upgrades are so popular.  The seating arrangement is two in tandem, and the front seat is extremely uncomfortable.  Just getting into the front seat requires one to know a bit of gymnastics and once in you sit with your legs crunched and a fuel tank in your lap.  The back seat is much better, but does not provide much leg room.  You solo the Cub from the rear seat and you are totally blind forward when in the three point attitude.  This makes take-offs and landing a totally different experience from what most pilots are used to.  Most Cubs do not have an electrical system and radios are handheld with battery operated intercom.  With no electrics means you have no starter and have to learn the skill of hand starting the aircraft. With a Cub, this is really no big deal. The Cub also has no flaps, limited instruments, and poor visibility overhead for the pilot.

So what does all that mean?

Piper CubAll of these characteristics make the Cub the best trainer and sport aircraft in the world.

You have to fly the Cub, and plan ahead. With only 65hp up front one must fly the wing and not rely on power to get out of bad situation. It is a stick and rudder aircraft which requires you to learn and be proficient in slips and use of the rudder. You become wind aware; the Cub is small, light and affected by winds more than most similar aircraft. With the lack of visibility during take-off and roll out on landing, you must be diligent and develop new visual cues.

Overall the Cub teaches the pilot to be coordinated, aware, and skillful.  It taught a generation how to fly, 80% of all World War II US Military pilots cut their teeth on it.

It is a joy to fly, with the door and window open on a warm summer evening.

If you are thinking of purchasing a Cub it is a great purchase and has many advantages such as:

  • A classic aircraft that maintains its value and may even appreciate over time
  • Made over 20,000 Cubs, being rebuilt constantly. You will have no problem finding one to purchase
  • It has an extremely low operating cost; it sips fuel with the A-65
  • Modifications and STCs are numerous, from more powerful engines, to floats and skies
  • It has simple construction and is easy to maintain

We go over more details in our top 10 aircraft to buy presentation.

Today the Cub has not lost its charm, it’s a proven trainer, well loved, and highly replicated as proven by the amount of LSA copies.

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