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Fixed or steerable tail wheel

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Russ P11/11/2018 14:06:50
133 forum posts
9 photos

I'm currently building a Gloster Gladiator and it shows a fixed tail wheel on the plan.

I was under the impression that a fixed tail wheel hinders the ground handling, would it be better if I fitted a steerable one. This would require major changes to the rear of the fuselage though.

Geoff Sleath11/11/2018 14:17:00
3223 forum posts
247 photos

I have tail skids on a couple of models (DH biplanes) and they're very difficult on the ground handling/taxiing particularly on our hard runway. They're not so bad on the grass when it's short enough. My 1/4 scale Mew Gull is supposed to have a tail skid, too to be scale, but the plans suggest replacing it with a (fixed) wheel. I've put a wheel on it but taxiing is still very difficult; it does reduce the scraping noise on landing, though, which can be a bit unnerving until you realise what it is.

Fitting a scale-like tail wheel shouldn't involve major fuselage changes. I made one for my Ballerina but HK sell quite lightweight ones. I've got one I intend to fit on my current project - Ryan ST.

ballerina tail wheel.jpg


J D 811/11/2018 14:27:07
1082 forum posts
65 photos

If the aircraft has a decent size rudder in the propellor slipstream [ The Gladiator does] it shoud be fine and it may even help with keeping straight on the takeoff run to have a fixed wheel. [ many full size have a lock on the tail wheel for takeoff.]

I have one model with fixed tail wheel and five with tail skids,all are maoeuvrable on the ground. It does depend on what surface you fly from though, skids do not grip enough on the hard surface and fixed wheel may grip to much.


Edited By J D 8 on 11/11/2018 14:29:43

Russ P11/11/2018 14:27:37
133 forum posts
9 photos

I think I will go with a steerable on, and redesign the tail. On the plan it shows a solid balsa block which the tail plane sits on so I'll have to think about the structure to support this.


eflightray11/11/2018 15:01:46
560 forum posts
127 photos

What about a free castoring tail wheel ?, no problems of the fixed one, and no problems of adding steering.

Trevor11/11/2018 15:20:53
344 forum posts
51 photos

I’d vote for the steerable tailwheel any day. In my limited experience the freely castoring option is the worst of all worlds, but it may depend on other aspects of the design.

Out of interest, in the last but one re-fit of the Grosvenor House Comet, they replaced the tailskid with a tailwheel. It was at that time that I took the photos to base my model on. A year later they had gone back to the tailskid. Apparently the tailwheel they fitted was a castoring one and made the ground handling very difficult. My model has a steerable one and works fine but I can appreciate that that would have involved more modification than they felt appropriate for such an iconic aircraft.


cymaz11/11/2018 15:50:45
8381 forum posts
1153 photos

Steerable tailwheel without a doubt. Don't use a caster .

Ultymate11/11/2018 16:02:44
1686 forum posts
54 photos

Has to be steerable if you want decent ground handling, in any sort of crosswind with a castoring tailwheel your model will simply weathercock into the wind

Don Fry11/11/2018 16:06:58
3385 forum posts
40 photos
Posted by eflightray on 11/11/2018 15:01:46:

What about a free castoring tail wheel ?, no problems of the fixed one, and no problems of adding steering.

I've got a P40 with a castoring tail wheel. Nightmare (impossible) on the ground, to prevent it weather cocking.

A powerful rudder is good on my Flair DVII, tailskid, and it's a precise and easy aircraft on the ground, once you've got it stopped.

Jon - Laser Engines11/11/2018 16:45:04
4498 forum posts
164 photos

i have 3 models with castoring tail wheels and they are no problem in all but the worst cross winds and even then its only trying to taxi that is the issue

Robert Parker11/11/2018 16:47:04
875 forum posts
1133 photos

Hi Russ,

I'd go for a steerable tailwheel, I had a DH Chipmunk with a free castoring it was a real pain, was not too difficult to do now ground handling is a pleasure.



Cuban811/11/2018 17:09:20
2397 forum posts
9 photos

Steerable every time. Saves a lot of messing about with the model weathercocking into wind when taxying.

Frank Skilbeck11/11/2018 17:52:05
4339 forum posts
101 photos

I built my 1/5th scale CAP Bucker Jungmeister with a steerable tail wheel with an internal closed loop control, which broke and would require major surgery to repair, so I've been flying it all summer with a castoring tail wheel with no issues, it actually is very easy to control on the take off and taxying is no problem.

Nigel R11/11/2018 19:17:53
2611 forum posts
427 photos
Plenty of opinions available!

I fly off a grass patch so a fixed skid is plenty for my proposes. I do have several models with steerable wheels and while they make taxiing easier it makes little odds to take off or landing.

Fixed are certainly easier to make and connect.
i12fly12/11/2018 23:31:34
527 forum posts
21 photos

My experience is:

I've had 5 or 6 models with steerable tail wheels linked to the rudder with rubber bands, ground handling excellent but when the band has perished and dropped off and the tail wheel just casters the ground handling was absolute rubbish, -as soon as you tried to taxi across the end of the strip, i.e. crosswind, you finished up running out of runway in anything but calm weather

A non-steerable tailwheel (just 1 model) also poor -difficult to move off the end of the strip.

I've also got Ballerina and Puppeteer with steerable tail skid -both excellent ground handling when taxiing

Cuban813/11/2018 09:16:29
2397 forum posts
9 photos

Funny things, castering tailwheels. On some models they're fine, but on others they're hopeless. My trusty old Goldberg Chippy is a case in point. With a fully castering tail wheel and a breeze, it'll just ground loop and not get anywhere, I limited the wheel's movement and that does help, but it's not consistent, and will often develop a mind of its own and go off and do its own thing despite what I do on the sticks - OK in dead calm conditions though.

Plummet13/11/2018 10:36:22
1384 forum posts
41 photos
Posted by Geoff Sleath on 11/11/2018 14:17:00:

My 1/4 scale Mew Gull is supposed to have a tail skid, too to be scale, but the plans suggest replacing it with a (fixed) wheel. I've put a wheel on it but taxiing is still very difficult; it does reduce the scraping noise on landing, though, which can be a bit unnerving until you realise what it is.


Are you aware that the original did indeed have a tailskid, but a castoring one. When the original was at Breighton we would see it land on the grass, and the first thing they would do was to lift the tailskid onto a small wheeled platform to minimise damage as it crossed tarmac.

Equally we have seen many taildraggers there with castoring tailwheels having a hell of a job taxying because the wind kept trying to weathercock them into wind.

Perhaps the friction of a castoring tailskid might give improved ground handling over a fully castoring tailwheel?


Martin Harris13/11/2018 11:10:20
8398 forum posts
211 photos

My own experience differs from some others in that I don't find very much difficulty steering a fixed tailwheel model on grass - unloading the tailwheel by relaxing the up elevator and occasionally some careful application of down elevator to initiate a turn, is normally enough to avoid a walk to the end of the runway...

The only castering tailwheel I've used regularly (scale operation on my Airsail Chipmunk) was a nightmare to taxi in any sort of crosswind - of course, full size have differential braking and many can be locked for take-off and landing. After having extreme difficulty practicing at what was essentially an air show at our twinned club in Germany in a stiff crosswind, to avoid embarrassing myself even more than usual, I did a quick mod to lock it and the ground handling was transformed.

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