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Old 06-30-2015, 04:00 PM
f14av8r's Avatar
f14av8r f14av8r is offline
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Tampa (Wimauma actually)
Posts: 405
Default Wheel or Three Point?

Okay, I do realize that I'm opening a bag of worms here but . . .

I just bought and am on my 7th hour of flying my (new to me) RV-4. I love the airplane and my landings so far are passable. Not perfect by any stretch but, considering the fact I've only got 12 hours of tailwheel time total, I'm at least keeping it on centerline and successfully going around when the bounces get too big!

Seriously though, I'd like to hear all you old pro's opinions on wheel vs three point landings. Here are my questions:

What is your norm (wheel / 3 pt) - calm winds, long runway, nice day?
What would be your flap config for various situations?
Short runways?
Soft runways?

My central question is when to shoot for a 3 point and when to plan a wheelie.

So far, I've intentionally limited my flying to long, paved runways with minimal winds (early morning). I'm doing 90% wheel landings because I find them more comfortable. So far so good but I'd like to know how all of you deal with the more challenging landing situations in the -4.

I will say the my -4 is MUCH easier to land than that -6 that I did my transition training in!

Appreciate the help!
Randy King
Tampa (Wimauma), Florida
RV-4 N212CS (sold)
RV-8 N184RK (flying)
Flying an A320 to pay the bills
Exempt and gladly donating anyway - Current through March 2020
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Old 06-30-2015, 04:20 PM
Steve51B's Avatar
Steve51B Steve51B is offline
Join Date: Jun 2014
Location: St. Paul, MN
Posts: 46

In hundreds of hours of tailwheel in at least 15-20 different makes/models and lots of tailwheel instruction: I have always preferred 3 point landings because of the slower touchdown speed and consequent shorter landing roll. I typically save wheel landings for crosswind situations when I can afford to use up a bit more runway.

That being said, I also find it easier to wheel land a -4 rather than 3 point it. Nothing wrong with a wheel landing as long as you have plenty of runway. It would be a good idea to exit your comfort zone and get good at 3 points in case you need one for shorter runways.

That's my two cents. If you want the full nickel, I could say more.

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Old 06-30-2015, 04:53 PM
sblack sblack is offline
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Montreal
Posts: 1,313

It really depends on whether or not you primed the airplane
Scott Black
RV 4, with an engine...and other stuff
VAF dues 2018
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Old 06-30-2015, 04:56 PM
Infidel's Avatar
Infidel Infidel is offline
Join Date: Sep 2011
Location: WV22
Posts: 845

I have about 33 hours of TW time and five of that was in a -6 during my transition and TW training. I agree, the -4 feels a whole lot easier than the -6. I've found, for me, it's easier to wheel land my -4, even off my 2600' grass strip. Here lately, I've been mixing it up between 3 pt. and wheel landings. Generally, I go with what feels right when I get in ground effect. There are times when I intend to wheel land and end up 3 pointing instead and vice versa.

For A strong X-wind, I use one notch of flaps and wheel land. Preferably with the upwind wheel touching first. I found this the hard way after the worst landing in my life after a long trip back from Alabama and a 20 kt quartering X-wind. My inexperience locked in full flaps and 3 pt'd. Get home-itis got the best of me, instead of doing the right thing and going to another strip with a favoring runway.

Once your comfortable with your TO's & Lndgs, the next thing to tackle is passenger weight. I started off w/my 110 lb nephew. Didn't even know he was there. Now my 210 lb neighbor is a different story. With a heavier passenger, trim isn't as sensitive and takes a little more effort to wheel land.

Enjoy your -4 and congratulations.
RV-4 0320\D3G 160, Whirlwind 200GA 70".
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Old 06-30-2015, 05:43 PM
humptybump's Avatar
humptybump humptybump is offline
Join Date: Feb 2011
Location: Eastern Shore of Virginia
Posts: 3,095

My advice to any new tailwheel pilot is to become proficient in both and be able to transition to either without effort.

You may have setup for a 3-point and the wind shifts or your speed is a bit off or it's a new-to-you runway and you realize it's a down slope and you've got plenty of runway so you wheel land. You plan for a wheel land and a gust slows your foward momentum and then dies off and now you're slow so you land 3-point. The reasons for switching it up will be endless. You don't want to have to consciously focus on which type of landing.

On my home runway which is 1900' of grass, I've found myself switching it up as needed.
- Glen, ESVA
RV-8 FP IFR | Track my RV-8 | 53VG
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Old 06-30-2015, 05:43 PM
F1R F1R is offline
Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: ____
Posts: 674

There is a recent post in the general discussion section titled
"Tail Wheel Misadventure"

Post #4 and Post #14 might be of help. Tail Low attitude wheel landings are the easiest and have you at a slower touchdown speed (than a tail high wheel landing) but still with adequate rudder and directional control.

I have about 3K hours of tailwheel time, but only in 4 types. If and when you can get to a nice smooth grass strip, it is much more forgiving.
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Old 06-30-2015, 06:05 PM
ArlingtonRV ArlingtonRV is offline
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Marysville, WA
Posts: 458

I suppose I'm a bit "weird" in that I find it easiest to 3-point my -4 even three years in with over 200 hours in it.

I only recently started working on wheel landings (the first 2 years were all 3-point) and go do them passably about 3/4 of the time. Often though, I botch it and recover 3-point.

My touchdowns are usually smoother 3-point and I can definitely land shorter that way.

In the end, as everyone else has said it's user preference and one should be able to do both as the need dictates.
Steve Rush
Arlington, WA
ArlingtonRV on YouTube
RV-8 (Bought Flying)
Glasair Sportsman (Sold)
RV-8 Tail, QB Fuselage (Sold)
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Old 06-30-2015, 06:26 PM
mike newall's Avatar
mike newall mike newall is offline
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Yorkshire, England
Posts: 1,717


Well put.

I think with a primed airplane, the wheel landing is the way forward.

If unprimed, I would favor the 3 point or at least tail low nearly 3 point.

Correspondents are still a little undecided though
"I add a little excitement, a little spice to your lives, and all you do is complain!" - Q

Donated in 2018
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Old 06-30-2015, 06:39 PM
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rbibb rbibb is offline
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Freericksburg, VA
Posts: 607

I usually 3 point.

Wheel landings work well is higher wind situations, just hold it off until the mains just skim.

One hint that I keep reminding myself of but never seem to master (500 hrs in -4):

Everytime I make a great landing I am flying slower that I thought possible on very short final. Everytime I make a mess of it and end up bunny hopping down the runway I am faster than I wanted to be on short final.

I also end up carrying a bit of power on short final to arrest sink rate at the approach speed. Target over the numbers is 70 mph IAS.

Like everything practice makes perfect but as a golf coach told me once, if you don't practice the right technique you will just get good at doing it wrong.

Same here.
Richard Bibb
RV-4 N144KT
Fredericksburg, VA
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Old 06-30-2015, 09:52 PM
sblack sblack is offline
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Montreal
Posts: 1,313

To be serious for a moment, I don't think the 4 is stalled in the 3 pount attitude, especially with the older short gear. That is going to make a 3 pointer a bit more difficult than say a champ, where you can stall it on. If you try to slow down to stall you will hit tailwheel first and go kerplop, which I have seen RVs do. You have to get good at getting the touchdown speed juuust right with no descent rate, because if you have any kind of descent rate that spring gear will launch you and the wing is still happily flying. Timing and practise. You will be closest to the stall AOA with full flap so I would expect it to be harder to land with less.

Full disclosure I have not flown my 4 yet though I have a several hundred hrs of TW and a smidge of RV time. I have watched them land very carefully and have seen lots of bouncing and gear shimmy. It does not surprise me at all that the engine mounts get cracks at the gear recepticals. I also video'd a friend in his 6 who was tired and got behind the power curve and the airplane just fell out of the sky in the final 5 ft before he could react. The gear splayed out and I don't know how he avoided a prop strike. So better a bit to fast than a bit too slow and if the speed starts to decay get on the power NOW! That characteristic is a feature of low aspect ratio wings. Very high induced drag at high AOA. No problem if you are prepared and it is not a criticism as those wings have advantages as well.

Mike Seager is who you want to talk to. 20,000 hrs of RV checkout time! However I don't know if he fits in a 4
Scott Black
RV 4, with an engine...and other stuff
VAF dues 2018
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