What Is an Aircraft Tailwheel?

Landing gear used for aircraft is designed to support a vehicle’s overall weight and provides stability during landing, take-off, and on-ground operations. However, the type of landing gear installed varies according to an aircraft’s design, weight, and intended purpose. In particular, tailwheel-type landing gear is the conventional choice for smaller aircraft, and they incorporate two wheels affixed toward the plane’s center of gravity, alongside a small skid or wheel toward the end of the aircraft to support its tail. Considered a variation of tricycle gear, such landing gear was originally created in 1929 by Waldo Waterman. While it is common to see small, modern propeller aircraft utilizing a tailwheel type undercarriage, they are not suited for larger, heavier-than-air aircraft.

Compared to other types of landing gear, tailwheels, alternatively known as taildraggers, provide several advantages. As extended landing gear can create drag which acts as a resistive force against aircraft in flight, a tailwheel can be applied to support the aircraft’s rear when installed behind an its center of gravity to mitigate resistance and promote smooth flight. Moreover, when compared to alternate variations of tricycle landing gear, tailwheels are considered a cost-effective and easy-to-maintain solution.

In addition, aircraft utilizing tailwheels often experience less physical stress during take-off and landing because of their three-point configuration. On smaller vehicles, these components enable adequate distribution of vehicle weight for seamless on-ground control. However, they can be susceptible to a phenomenon known as ground-looping, that of which is caused by a loss of directional control by the pilot where the tail deviates outside of the plane's center of gravity, causing the aircraft to spin.

Landing a tailwheel aircraft requires specialized training and a basic understanding of taildragger-type or conventional-type landing gear, and there are two standard landing techniques used: wheel landing and three-point landing. In regard to the wheel landing method, a pilot first utilizes the primary wheels to touch the ground at an even orientation. Then, power is reduced and the aircraft's tailwheel is gently lowered to complete touchdown Though, this technique is generally used during heavy winds to increase visibility for larger aircraft. On the other hand, a three-point landing method involves keeping the aircraft's nose in an elevated attitude, allowing all three wheels to simultaneously touch the ground upon landing at a minimum stall speed.

Disadvantages of Tailwheel Aircraft

Pilots operating tailwheel aircraft usually face difficulty viewing their landing gear during take-off and landing. As such, planes functioning with these components are easily damaged by tarmac flaws like potholes, debris, and other potentially hazardous materials. As aforementioned, such gear types are also susceptible to ground looping, which may lead to rapid vehicle rotation, runway excursion, wing damage, or personal injury.


While primarily used for small aircraft, tailwheel landing gear is still popular and widely used in the aviation industry. If you are an aviation enthusiast looking for particular tailwheel components or other airplane parts, then Accelerating RFQs has you covered. We are a leading distributor of aerospace, defense, electronic, and industrial products, and we are committed to only providing premium services backed by cost savings and rapid lead times on all orders. As our team of market experts is available 24/7x365, customers can expect responses to submitted Instant RFQ forms within 15 minutes or less.


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