The Compleat Taildragger - Review

Piper L-4 The Compleat Taildragger Pilot
Harvey S. Plourde

As the years go by, the art of flying taildraggers is slowly vanishing. Yet, there are many taildraggers left in the world, and their low prices make them attractive to people who are looking for an economical way to own their own plane. The taildragger's tricky reputation, and the FARs, make a good checkout mandatory if you have no taildragger time. This book explains why taildraggers are different, and how to stay ahead of the tricky little devils.

The book starts with advice on choosing a taildragger instructor, and follows up with basic theory explaining why taildraggers are different. Later chapters cover ground operations, takeoffs, landings, crosswinds, planning a transition program, and so forth. The book is illustrated throughout with clear, though basic, diagrams complementing the text. One entire chapter is devoted to the quirks of crosswind landing gear systems. Another chapter is aimed at the poor flight instructor trying to figure out how to teach taildragger operations to the hapless tricycle-gear pilot. Last but not least are appendices analysing in detail propellor P-factor, and crabbed crosswind landings.

The Compleat Taildragger Pilot is a bit pricey, but not too far out of line as books go nowadays. It is more complete than the other taildragger books I've seen, and much clearer. But, is it worthwhile? I think so. I bought it shortly after I started my own transition to taildraggers, and knowing what I'm trying to do before I do it helps a lot. For instance, I'm working on wheel landings right now. The author explains why wheel landings are useful, how to do a proper wheel landing, and the most common errors made by pilots learning wheel landings. I still need lots more practice, but at least now when I botch it, I know why.

This book was self-published (ah, the wonders of modern computers), so you may not be able to find it in your local mall bookstore. If your favorite pilot shop doesn't have it, you can order it directly from the author.

Roger Ritter
930 Days End Rd.
Wimberley, TX 78676
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