View Full Version : Tailwheel PPL near Pittsburgh?

03-06-2014, 12:45 PM
Hi airplanes world fellows!

I'll be living in Pittsburgh for a year, and I would like to take advantage of that to get my PPL. Do you know guys if I can get my PPL only flying a taildragger? If that is possible, any flight school near Pittsburgh where I can go and ask? I want to get it in a tailwheel plane because I plan to continue getting training on aerobatics, (recently I bought a Rans S-10) so would be better if I practice since the beginning on this kind of plane... and well, I love the old school looking of the J3s and Champs, and want to be part of that club :P.

Good flights


03-07-2014, 07:01 AM
Certainly you can get your Private in a tailwheel aircraft, but there are equipment items such as radios and instruments that are required for learning under the hood, controlled field, etc. However, you can certainly work through solo and even some cross country in something such as a J-3, then switch to a better equipped tri-gear (that's what I did in 1969 -- started in a Chief, finished in a Musketeer).

All that said, though, finding a place that teaches in tailwheels (or finding tailwheels for rent) can be difficult, and finding good independent tailwheel instructors can also be awkward, though all are certainly around. But find a local EAA chapter and touch base with them, as they are likely to know about the availability of the above.

The other consideration, in a place like Pittsburgh, is that the aircraft will likely need a radio and transponder to deal with class B or C airspace, unless you find someplace on the edge of that area with cutouts in the airspace.

Good luck to you -- it's a great goal.

03-07-2014, 07:41 AM
Do you know guys if I can get my PPL only flying a taildragger?

Nothing in the regs to prevent that. However, finding someone to do it may be a challenge. And with that, no way I'd drive further or pay more just to get a PPL in a tailwheel airplane. Just find the most convenient, reasonably priced training (regardless of airplane type) and go for it. You can transition to a tailwheel airplane after you're done.

03-07-2014, 05:10 PM
Thank you guys for the advices! I will contact the local EAA chapter, And will continue looking for tailwheel birds! Thanks again!

Eagle Six
03-07-2014, 05:54 PM
Thank you guys for the advices! I will contact the local EAA chapter, And will continue looking for tailwheel birds! Thanks again!

After my private pilot, I started flying some taildraggers. I wish I could have taken my PP training in one, but the only thing at the time, within reason, were nosedraggers, so that is the route I went. Usually, but not always, my experience and observation has been, pilots become more proficient with stick and rudder when they have transitioned to taildraggers and had the training to become skilled endorsed.

When I have a choice, I always go toward the taildragger. Recently I took my flight review after 34 years off of flying. My choice was between a Piper SE Comanche and a Cessna 120. My choice was the Cessna 120! Believe it or not, before you even climb into a small airplane, a few tap dance lessons, will improve your rudder skills. The rudder even works for nosedraggers, but with taildraggers, from the time you start the fan and roll, until engine shut-down and tie-down.....we need to work the rudder.

Good Luck in your quest.

Best Regards......George

Bill Greenwood
03-08-2014, 09:15 AM
There are at least 2 skills particular to learning/flying a tailwheel plane:
1 Limited view over the nose and out the front
2 Need to use the rudder pedal better to keep the nose straight down the runway,
especially on landing, since unlike a nosewheel plane the tendency to straighten out is not built into the plane and relies on the pilot to keep straight

While you can learn in a nosewheel trainer ( C172 etc.) you will likely always have some unease about the limiited front view when you later try to switch to a tailwheel plane.

Do yourself a favor and try to start in tailwheel first. And the best is one where the pilot sits in the rear seat, ie J3 Cub, etc. so that you get used to not being able to see straight over the nose.

Other planes like a Citabria or Decatlon, Champ are not quite as good since you sit in the front seat and can see forward somewhat.
When I wanted to learn to be a better pilot, I found a CFI with a Cub, (took some searching) then got some time in a Stearman ( wish I had more of this) then got enough time in a T-6 (STARTING IN THE REAR SEAT) to be sighned off and solo the T-6. Almost everyone today would tell you to start in the front of the T-6. DON"T. ONE of the SMARTEST or luckiest things I ever did was to start in the rear seat and by the time I got ready to solo and moved into the front seat I was used to the poor visablility out the front and could land the T-6 3 point from the rear seat which is very blind, ( use periphial vision).
To this day, I may have some trouble with pitch control in the flare, sometimes I am a 7 sometimes a 9, but almost always my rudder skills in keeping the nose straight are a 9 or 10, and I am don't have to push the nose down in order to see over it when trying to land.
I know some airline and jet pilots who fly tailwheel planes and they are always a little uncomfortable on landing and trying to lower the nose to see over it and can only make a wheel landing, very uncomfortable with a 3 point landing.
It is something like learning to drive a car. If you learned in 1950 it would have been a stick shift and no one thought anything about it, but now you get many people in a stick shift and they make it into a difficult thing since most everyone now learns without having to use the clutch.
The rudder pedal use can be learned by lots of practice including some when taxing, but it will be emphasized if you you start in the rear seat. If you are ever in COLO especially Boulder, get in touch with me and I can show you what I mean by rudder use in an hour or so, it doesn't take forever, but it does require good skill for when you later deal with landings in some crosswind.

If you can't find a tailwheel plane to start in, by all means start in anything, even a 172, but if you can find a Cub, you will always have a leg up on the guy in the Cessna. It is easy to move from the Cub into a 150 or 172 when and if you need to do instrument or night flying.
And by the way, if you go on to fly other types many of the most fun and interesting planes are tailwheel. Cessna didn't make any nosewheel P-51s or DC-3s!

One last point, some of the modern trainers, DA-40 etc. are full of wonderous gadgets. So you can spend you time learning about gadget reading or you can spend you time learning about flying a plane.

Go fly!

champ driver
03-08-2014, 10:09 AM
I agree with everything that Bill said, except that you can fly a Champ or Citabria from the rear seat with your instructor. The front seat in my Champ has very good visibility, you don't even need to S turn while taxiing, but the rear seat is very Cub like. There's been many times I've soloed my Champ from the rear just for something different. Normally you have to solo a Cub from the rear seat but you can solo a Champ from either seat.

03-10-2014, 07:36 AM
then got some time in the rear seat of a Stearman ( wish I had more of this)
The front seat is even more blind.

Bill Greenwood
03-10-2014, 09:18 AM
Inuss where are you in Colo? What do you fly? I fly mostly in Boulder and Aspen, sometimes FNL,BJC,APA.

03-11-2014, 06:55 AM
I'm in Westminster, Bill. I now have diabetes, and I've not gone through the hoops to update my medical, so I'm not flying anything currently. When I had that L-21 I flew out of Erie, but I'd been out of Jeffco for a while before that. My Stearman time was in Albuquerque in the '70s: http://home.comcast.net/~lfn3/Peg_Abq/Av_Pix.html (http://home.comcast.net/%7Elfn3/Peg_Abq/Av_Pix.html)

03-11-2014, 02:32 PM
Hi Esteve,

I'm with the Pittsburgh chapter (http://www.45.eaachapter.org/). We are based out of Rostraver Airport (FWQ), Southeast of Pittsburgh. If you contact the chapter, they will probably recommend the Little Blue Champ (http://www.littlebluechamp.com/) based out of Finleyville (G05). But, do give Ken a call, and give us a visit. Our meetings are third Friday of the month.

I got my PPL back in 2004 at Allegheny County (AGC) at Pittsburgh Flight Training Center (PFTC). But PFTC is a part-141 school interested in training airline pilots. They don't have taildragger, nor do they have an interest in that sort of thing. I was kind of an oddball just wanting a PPL (Sport Pilot came into being while I was finishing up my PPL).

Good luck. IMHO *ALL* pilots should start out in taildragger. Do you know how hard it is going to be for me to "unlearn" trigear when I go for a taildragger rating?


03-11-2014, 04:44 PM
Do you know how hard it is going to be for me to "unlearn" trigear when I go for a taildragger rating?
The secret to tailwheel flying is precision. In the years when I specialized in those transitions, it usually took in the neighborhood of 10 hours, but it depended a lot on how attentive the pilot was to sloppy flying -- the sloppier the pilot the longer it took. You can help yourself by trying to maintain absolute precision now, even without a tailwheel; that is, don't let your altitude wander even one foot, don't let your nose, even in cruise flight, wander even one degree from the desired heading. Don't let the ball get even a quarter of a ball off center. Learn to feel the sideways push on your butt when that ball isn't precisely centered (you've gotta relax to feel it). Don't let your bank angle vary even a degree or two from what it should be for what you are doing. Of course this is in smooth air -- in turbulence try to average being on target through active correction. Do it with very small corrections caught early before most people would even notice it. If you can get a friend to ride along who will be very critical of you for this project, that will help.

The above being said, don't do this by looking at the gauges -- keep your head outside. Learn to judge airspeed and altitude, even fly the pattern and MCA (Minimum Controllable Airspeed -- that is, right on the edge of the stall), with a coat over the instrument panel (my students learned this before solo). Learn to judge aircraft attitude (in all three axes) while looking outside, but not just over the nose -- even when looking at a wing, when looking behind you, etc. Notice, and correct, even the tiniest variation, whether in flight, on the ground, or in the flare. Learn to see minute excursions off of perfect. Spending a lot of time practicing this at or near MCA (keep some altitude for this -- in many/most aircraft, too sloppy can make a spin) can help you to visualize and overcome the sloppiness.

If you successfully do this, you'll have half the battle won.

Since I don't know anything about your flying, I just related what I saw and what worked in many years of transitioning people into taildraggers.

03-12-2014, 12:09 PM
A couple of days without check the forum, and now that I came back found great answers and a lot of help. This forum is simple awesome!. Eagle six, Bill, Inuss Champ driver, Mr Intensity, thanks a lot for your comments!! And seems like everybody agree what I was thinking, is better start in a tailwheel!! My intention is to start in aerobatics, fist with a S-10 that I recently bought, and then my I want to build a DR109 (already got the plans of it). So I'm absolutely sure that I need to become an expert on tailwheel. This weekend I went to Salem airpark and talked to Ben, they have a Citabria there and and he told me that they can help me with a tailwheel endorsement, but seems like I need to go to a 141 school, since I'm a foreign guy. Then I went to Moore Aviation and Haski aviation asking for a PPL. I'm still deciding what to do, since both schools don't have taildraggers. Mr Intensity, the next chapter meeting is Friday 21 right? If it is at night, I will be there!!

03-14-2014, 01:55 PM
Inuss: Thank you for the tips and advice. My weakness in learning to fly was "fixating" on gauges too much. I am an information technology (IT) person by trade, and one of my instructors figured it out:

"You're flying an airplane, not a computer."

Programmers tend to take a problem and break it down into step-by-step solutions. That doesn't work during flying. You fly by multitasking and "feel."

I ran out of money a while back (just short of my instrument rating), and haven't flown in years. I am out of biennial. So, when I go back to start training for biennial, I will probably go the little blue champ route and get the taildragger endorsement at the same time. A freind pointed out that it has been so long, that it will almost be like starting over, so I probably have forgotten the trigear bad habits. :-D

Steve: Yes, March 21 is the next meeting at about 7:30PM at our hangar at FWQ.

Here is the problem: Security has been tightened up around airports, so it is not easy to get on the field to get to our hangar. There is a resteraunt called the Eagle's Landing at the airport, and usually a group of us meet for dinner there before the meeting.

Try to get to FWQ around 6:30PM. Upon entering the airport from Route 51, there will be a split in the road. Bear RIGHT. You will pass a company called Solar Power Industries on the right (I think they went out of business), you will turn a slight bend, and you will come to a stop sign. Straight ahead is the parking lot for the Eagle's Landing. We are (usually) the largest group in the resteraunt, and we are (usually) in the back corner. Just ask for EAA Chapter 45. If I am not there, just mention my name (John Handis). After dinner, we all head over to the hangar.

Hope to see you there.

03-14-2014, 03:01 PM
...so I probably have forgotten the trigear bad habits. :-D

Don't count on it -- "muscle memory" persists longer than you'd think.

Programmers tend to take a problem and break it down into step-by-step solutions.

Teachers break things to learn down into small pieces and teach it building block fashion -- similar principle, but a different implementation.

Good luck, and hope it goes well for you.

Sco Deac
04-24-2014, 02:35 PM
What is the consensus on good tailwheel training options for somone that lives in Butler, PA? I know of the littlebluechamp at Finleyville someone mentioned earlier and Skyline at the Salem Air Park. Either are about 1 hour drive. Am I missing any other options and does anyone have views on either?