WW2 era aircraft - tailwheel configuration

#1
When watching programmes about World War Two and the times before and after, I have always wondered why aircraft all had a tailwheel configuration, since this would have caused problems on the ground, such as limited visibility when taxying. However, what advantage did it have? Did raising the nose of the aircraft increase the angle of attack, meaning the wings give more left, and reducing the amount of runway length needed for take off? I am thinking of Hurricanes and Spitfire scrambling during the Battle Of Britain, or heavily bombed up Lancasters taking off.

When and why did things change? Modern light aircraft and trainers have tricycle type landing gear - does this come at the price of increased take off distance? Were any of the the early jets designed with tailwheels?
 
#2
I imagine to give maximum clearance to propeller diameter. Any other ideas?
 

AlienFTM

MIA
Book Reviewer
#3
I imagine to give maximum clearance to propeller diameter. Any other ideas?
When the tail lifts during acceleration, that clearance will disappear, so I suspect not.

IMHO more likely simply because at that time, fuselage weight put the centre of mass behind the wing. Early jets (think Saber, Mig15) still had wings a long way forward. I remember with Airfix kits in my youth, you wanted an early jet wheels down, you had to put a weight in the nose to stop it sitting on its tail.

As jet design evolved, wings went further back and models will sit on their tricycle undercarriage without being weighed down.
 
#5
I imagine to give maximum clearance to propeller diameter. Any other ideas?
Agreed, along with the 'tail dragger' configuration having been the traditional way with fixed undercarriages, needing considerably less engineering than a tricycle undercarriage, particularly one that retracts.
 

AlienFTM

MIA
Book Reviewer
#6
Yes.
Sea Supermarin Attacker
Did wonders for the tarmac!
I seem to remember a story, probably on Arrse, about the First time Fleet Air Arm Phantoms landed on a US carrier, designed for Pratt&Whitney engines, the hotter burning Rolls Royce lump exhausts did nasty things to the flight deck.
 
#7
Closer to a WW2 design, for a tail dragging jet. The Yak 15.

yak15.png


From Wiki: 'On 9 April 1945, the Council of People's Commissars ordered the Yakovlev OKB to develop a single-seat jet fighter to be equipped with a single German Jumo 004 engine. To save time, Yakovlev based the new design (known as the Yak-3-Jumo or Yak-Jumo) on the latest version of his successful Yakovlev Yak-3 piston-engined fighter. The piston engine was removed and the jet engine was mounted underneath the forward fuselage so that its exhaust exited underneath the middle of the fuselage.'
 
#8
While there were design and cost implications to either have a tailwheel or nose nose design we should never forget Hiltlers 'reasoned response' to whether the Me 262 had a tailwheel or nosewheel when it was first designed!
:)
 
#9
I seem to remember a story, probably on Arrse, about the First time Fleet Air Arm Phantoms landed on a US carrier, designed for Pratt&Whitney engines, the hotter burning Rolls Royce lump exhausts did nasty things to the flight deck.
There is a video of a Vampire, trike undercarriage, ripping up the tarmac at Wolverhampton International Airport.
 
#10
I seem to remember a story, probably on Arrse, about the First time Fleet Air Arm Phantoms landed on a US carrier, designed for Pratt&Whitney engines, the hotter burning Rolls Royce lump exhausts did nasty things to the flight deck.

The longer nose undercarriage on the RN versions contributed as well.
wiki...

The first operational use of the Royal Navy's Phantoms had come in 1969, when 892 NAS had embarked for training with the US aircraft carrier USS Saratoga in the Mediterranean, and had undertaken air defence missions alongside the ship's own F-4Js.[39]This deployment showed the necessity for the modifications fitted to Ark Royal, as the heat from the afterburners of the Spey, combined with the increased angle of attack resulting from the extendable nosewheel, during the initial launches from Saratoga caused the deck plates to distort, leading to subsequent catapult launches being undertaken at reduced weight without the use of re-heat.
 
#11
Most WW2 fighters (Allies and Axis) had a tailwheel because most of the fuselage forward of the wings leading edge was chock full of engine and fuel/oil/coolant tanks. Sometimes armament was also fitted into the nose so there just wasn’t any room for a nose wheel. The American Bell P-39 Airacobra overcome this by moving the engine to behind the pilot, having an extra long prop shaft that ran between the pilots legs it allowed the designers to fit a tricycle undercarriage.
 
Last edited:

Wordsmith

LE
Book Reviewer
#13
The Me262 originally had a tail wheel undercarriage:

View attachment 373266
Yep - and for the test pilot to get it off the ground, he had to accelerate to take-off speed, tap the brakes to bring the nose down, hold it in the right attitude using the elevators and then climb away. I believe the first prototype was wrecked when another pilot tried the procedure - thereafter it used a tricycle undercarriage.

Wordsmith
 

Wordsmith

LE
Book Reviewer
#14
When watching programmes about World War Two and the times before and after, I have always wondered why aircraft all had a tailwheel configuration, since this would have caused problems on the ground, such as limited visibility when taxying. However, what advantage did it have? Did raising the nose of the aircraft increase the angle of attack, meaning the wings give more left, and reducing the amount of runway length needed for take off? I am thinking of Hurricanes and Spitfire scrambling during the Battle Of Britain, or heavily bombed up Lancasters taking off.

When and why did things change? Modern light aircraft and trainers have tricycle type landing gear - does this come at the price of increased take off distance? Were any of the the early jets designed with tailwheels?
It dated back to the biplane era, when they didn't have brakes. 'Tail dragging' (with a skid) reduced the length of the landing run. When the initial all metal biplanes were built, they replicated the methodology of the earlier aircraft but with a tail wheel.

Wordsmith
 
#16
Can't remember what thread, but didn't someone post on here a Vampire /Venom burning* up the runway into large manageable lumps.

* no pun intended..... Well not much!
 
#17
As Jeff quill said “ before ww2 virtually everything I flew was a tail wheel, within 4 years of the wars end with the exception of the swift and the fury virtually everything I flew was a tricycle undercarriage.
The main advantage was during the two or three occasions a year the average pilot got behind his aeroplane on landing in a crosswind, he was far less likely to write the airframe off or damage it in a ground loop.

The c of g is well aft of the mainwheels in a taildragger. If ,on the landing roll on the mainwheels the aircraft starts to swing into wind and the pilot isn’t sufficiently rapid in catching it with the increasingly ineffective rudder.( less airflow over it as the machines slows and frequently blanked by the fuselage as the tail sinks) Then the whole machine pivots around the upwind main like a cornering car on ice with a heavy weight in the boot.
Taldragger pilots often sing the praises of their layouts efficiency. But back in the day all airfields had 3 runways so landing was allways nearly into wind.( and you could draw another airframe from stores if you f#cked up !)
 
#19
Agreed, along with the 'tail dragger' configuration having been the traditional way with fixed undercarriages, needing considerably less engineering than a tricycle undercarriage, particularly one that retracts.
Weight is also a consideration. Small tail wheel as opposed to larger nose wheel and support structure.
 
#20

The longer nose undercarriage on the RN versions contributed as well.
wiki...

The first operational use of the Royal Navy's Phantoms had come in 1969, when 892 NAS had embarked for training with the US aircraft carrier USS Saratoga in the Mediterranean, and had undertaken air defence missions alongside the ship's own F-4Js.[39]This deployment showed the necessity for the modifications fitted to Ark Royal, as the heat from the afterburners of the Spey, combined with the increased angle of attack resulting from the extendable nosewheel, during the initial launches from Saratoga caused the deck plates to distort, leading to subsequent catapult launches being undertaken at reduced weight without the use of re-heat.
Slight thread drift. I heard a possibly apocryphal tale in the 70s of an exercise with the US Navy where a Phantom from the Ark was cleared to land on the Septic carrier USS Big Bastard. He was a bit slow, and was tartly reminded he had clearance to land on.
He replied "Yes, but which runway?"
 

New Posts

Latest Threads

Top