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Setting the Highest Standard in Flight Training

Tailwheel Airplane Pilot Course

This course is conducted in our 1999 American Champion Super Decathlon. This airplane is equipped with a 180 HP fuel injected aerobatic engine, the newer metal wing spar, constant speed aerobatic propeller, door-jettison system, inverted fuel and oil system, semi – symmetric aerobatic wing, steerable tail wheel, aileron spades, acro-site and a Garmin GNS430 GPSCOMM. A removable high-definition camera/recorder with GPS flight data recording is also available. Bose A20 headsets, which provide maximum comfort, noise reduction and clarity are provided with the aircraft. Audio and video flight recordings of your flights are provided to you via flash drive so you can load the flight recording on your computer or other device at home or office and review your flight! Aerobatic training can also be incorporated in this course if you desire.

The objective of this course is to acquaint you with the unique and challenging characteristics of various tail wheel aircraft during taxi, takeoff and landing phases of flight, and the ground dynamics of these aircraft. You will also learn the specific procedures and skills required to accomplish taxi, takeoffs and landings in a tail wheel aircraft with consistent safety, precision and smoothness. Pilots at all experience levels will benefit from this training. Benefits include: use of the rudder pedals to a higher degree of precision and coordination, higher skill level in precision crosswind takeoffs and landings, a higher degree of division of attention and faster reaction time to takeoff and landing challenges. These enhanced skills will transfer to any type of airplane you fly. You will also receive ground instruction on the systems, speeds, normal procedures and emergency procedures of the Super Decathlon. You will also receive night training and takeoffs and landings at an actual short field grass runway airport. Every pilot who has taken this course has stated that he or she feels safer and more competent as a result of this experience. This type of flying is a lot of fun, and in the Super Decathlon, it can become addictive! Upon graduation, you will receive a graduation certificate and a logbook endorsement certifying that you have received the FAA – required ground and flight training and are competent to act as pilot in command of a tail wheel airplane.

This course is provided with in-depth ground and flight instruction from Steve Shaner, who has given thousands of hours of instruction in tail wheel airplanes for over 44 years. Steve has piloting experience in most airplanes ranging from Piper Cubs to corporate jets. He was formerly an FAA- Designated Pilot examiner for over 32 years for Private Pilot through Airline Transport Pilot. There is no minimum ground or flight hour requirement to complete this course. The maximum student pilot weight limit in the Super Decathlon is 220lbs.

You will graduate from this course and receive the FAA logbook endorsement when you have completed all of the prescribed training in this syllabus and can demonstrate safely and consistently, the following procedures in a tail wheel airplane:

  1. Proper preflight and post flight inspection procedures
  2. Proper securing procedures
  3. Straight taxiing on the centerline of the taxiway
  4. Safe recovery from simulated bad takeoff and landing exercises
  5. Proper crosswind technique during taxi, takeoff and landing
  6. 3-point and wheel takeoffs and landings smoothly, straight and on the runway centerline
  7. Proper takeoffs, landings and ground handling on a grass runway airport

The Tail Wheel Airplane Pilot Qualification Course ground syllabus includes the following:

  • Examination of student certificates and log – establish experience level, medical fitness and weight (max allowable student weight is 225 lbs.)
  • Course overview
  • Constant speed propeller operation (as appropriate to pilot experience)
  • Super Decathlon design, systems, numbers, normal and emergency checklist procedures.
  • Tail wheel ground dynamics and procedures.
  • DeKalb-Peachtree airport and practice area orientation procedures (as appropriate to pilot experience)
  • Super Decathlon preflight, post flight and securing procedures.
  • FAR tail wheel airplane recency of experience requirements.
  • Various tail wheel / rudder steering and locking mechanisms
  • Wind, jet and prop blast effects on tail wheel airplanes.
  • Tail wheel airplane taxiing procedures
  • Tail wheel airplane normal 3-point and wheel takeoff and landing procedures
  • Tail wheel airplane crosswind takeoff and landing procedures
  • Tail wheel airplane night takeoff and landing procedures
  • Tail wheel airplane short field and soft field takeoff and landing procedures
  • Recovery from bad takeoffs and landings in tail wheel airplanes
  • Tail wheel airplane takeoff and landing accident prevention analysis

The Tail Wheel Airplane Pilot Qualification Course flight syllabus includes the following:

  • Preflight, post flight and securing the Super Decathlon
  • Emergency egress exercise for the Super Decathlon
  • Start, taxi, runup, takeoff, climb, cruise descent landing the Super Decathlon
  • Slow flight, stalls, steep turns and engine out simulations
  • Traffic patterns and go-arounds
  • Slips
  • 3-point and wheel takeoffs and landings
  • Recovery from takeoffs and landings
  • Crosswind 3-point and wheel takeoffs and landings
  • Night 3-point and wheel takeoffs and landings (with and without lights)
  • Actual grass runway airport – takeoffs and landings

In addition to learning all of these procedures, it is necessary to practice repeatedly to develope the skills necessary to safely and competently handle this airplane. On average, our students who have no previous tail wheel airplane experience and complete at least 2-3 flight lessons per week on a consistent basis, take 10 – 15 flight lessons to establish a high level of competency and confidence, and earn the FAA endorsement. A student who does not have consistent attendance may require more sessions. As there is no minimum time requirement, some exceptional students may finish in a fewer number of lessons. These lessons are scheduled for 3.5-4 hour periods which include question and answer periods, preflight and post flight ground briefings, video recording review, weather and pilot notices check, preflight and post flight aircraft inspection, the actual flight, returning the aircraft to the hangar and filling out the logbook. Each flight will typically be 1.0 to 2.3 hours in duration. A typical flight lesson can cost between $950 to $1150 depending on how much flight and ground training time occurs. After the first 2 lessons, there is very little ground time (1.2-1.3 hours).

The Super Decathlon rents for $215/hour + 8% tax and the instructor rate is $180/hour for ground and flight time.

If you want to take a complete tail wheel airplane course and a complete aerobatics course, it is recommended that you complete the tail wheel airplane course first. If you are not seeking the tail wheel airplane logbook endorsement, you can also take just a few lessons to see what it’s like. The same hold true with aerobatics, you can take as little or as much flight training as you like. It’s all great fun and it will make you a safer pilot!