Click for the latest Bonners Ferry weather forecast.
Print Version

Home   News   Sports   Social   Obituaries   Events   Letters
Looking Back     Health Jewels

Taildragger takes to the sky

February 25, 2013
Dave Parker at the controls of the newest Northern Air acquisition, a 1964 Citabria, a taildragger purchased as a pile of parts more than two years ago, now in the air once again.
Northern Air Photo
By Ashley Glaza
Northern Air
Spring was in the air early this February. The snow is almost gone from the valley and the longer days and warm sunshine brought out all the eager pilots who were blocked from their planes by a two foot snow bank in front of their hangar door all winter.

One of the aircraft soaring off the runway and into the sunshine this month had been grounded a little longer than most, and it was beautiful to see her fly.

Northern Air has had a busy winter, with the new group of student pilots enrolled in ground school as well as those who are finishing up from last year.

On February 11, Nathan Negoi took his first solo flight. Nathan received an EAA Scholarship in 2012, took the ground school and has been volunteering at the airport at every chance to build as much airplane experience as he can.

Nathan Negoi
Northern Air is proud to announce the newest addition to its fleet, a 1964 American Champion Citabria (Citabria is Airbatic spelled backwards). Dave Parker, owner and president of Northern Air, purchased the plane as a disassembled pile of parts, and spent the last two and a half years rebuilding, repainting, and updating components to like-new condition with the help of the Northern Air mechanics Kevin Lamp and Daryl Johnson, and his children, Jade and John.

Dave named the plane “Jade” after his daughter, who is currently enrolled in ground school.

On February 10, Dave took the plane for its “maiden” flight, and it has been busy with pilots eager to earn their tailwheel training ever since.

The more commonly known tricycle gear aircraft have the two main wheels under the wings and a third under the nose.

A tailwheel aircraft has the third wheel under the tail, which is more forgiving when landing on soft or rough surfaces such as turf or gravel, making it ideal for backcountry flying enthusiasts, but is somewhat more of a challenge to land and take off.

Jade Parker in the cockpit of the plane that now bears her name.
Because of this challenge, the Federal Aviation Administration requires a pilot to receive training from a certified instructor in a tailwheel aircraft (also known as a taildragger) and an endorsement in their logbook before they can legally fly one.

When a taildragger touches down, it is imperative to keep the airplane straight down the runway, because any small deviation of the tail from the centerline, without immediate correction, can accelerate into a complete “ground loop” where the tail of the airplane swings around to the front, and at high speeds this can result in significant damage to the airplane.

If the wind is not blowing straight down the runway, and a crosswind condition exists, the pilot must be extremely competent and diligent on landing and takeoff.

Airplanes were originally designed with the tailwheel configuration back in the days when there were no designated paved runways, and pilots took off from a grass or dirt field straight into the wind depending on which direction it was blowing.

World War II led to a need for the heavier aircraft that carried bombs and extra fuel which required firm, smooth, paved runways.

The tricycle wheel configuration was development as a result, because landings and takeoffs in taildraggers became more difficult when the winds were not blowing straight down the runway.

Another reason for the development of the tricycle gear was the introduction of jet engines.

When a tailwheel aircraft is sitting on the ground, it is in a nose-high position, and jet-blast from the engines on these planes tended to burn holes in the runways. The tricycle gear style lifted the tail up so that the jets would blast straight out the back instead of into the ground.

Today taildraggers are less common, but seen by many as an extra challenge to fly after mastering the tricycle gear.

It is also the common configuration for backcountry pilots because it is more forgiving in rough terrain, and many “warbirds” and other historical aircraft retained the tailwheel configuration.

Anyone interested in learning more about tailwheel aircraft can reference several books, including "Conventional Gear – Flying a Taildragger," by David Robson, or "The Complete Taildragger Pilot," by Harvey S. Plourde, or stop by Northern Air to see the new Citabria.

Northern Air is now offering tailwheel training in the Citabria, and intends to add aerobatic training in the future. For more information call (208) 267 4359.
Questions or comments about this letter? Click here to e-mail!