Groundlooping a Skyhawk

Even if you've never flown a taildragger, you probably know what a "groundloop" is. If not, it's a sudden loss of directional control on the ground that's normally associated with taildraggers, which have their centers of gravity aft of the pivot point and so naturally want to swap ends on landing.

But can you groundloop a tricycle gear airplane too? Sure you can, and there's a set of dangerous conditions under which it's more likely to happen.

When Cessna introduced tricycle landing gear to its light airplanes in the 1950s, the company's ad men extolled the change from "conventional" landing gear (i.e. tailwheel), going so far as to call the nifty new setup Cessna's "Land-o-Matic" gear. And it's true, tricycle gear is much easier to handle on the ground. But there's a "but" here that's worth considering.

If you land a tricycle gear airplane with a quartering tailwind, you'll not only land faster you'll also risk groundlooping if you attempt to exit the runway onto a taxiway at high speed and then in a panic hit the brakes. The result could be a bent wing or worse.

The advice here, obviously, is to always land into the wind. If you can't for some reason, be mindful of the effects of a tailwind and directional changes in tri-gear airplanes.

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