Tri-Gear vs Taildragger, Which Version to Build?

Many people are afraid of taildraggers although they have probably never flown one.  The Mustang II is a very good taildragger airplane.  It is certainly much easier learning to fly a good taildragger than it is to learn the initial piloting skills before your first solo.

The Mustang II taildragger version has several advantages over the tricycle gear version.  Without a nose wheel in the prop slipstream it is 5-7mph faster than the tri-gear version.  The taildragger version is also more maneuverable on the ground and can handle rougher fields.  The taildragger can be towed on its own gear for short distances and over smooth roads.  The tri-gear version is about $1200 more.  And finally the propeller is kept pointed more nose up while taxiing and starting the take off run so there is usually less damage to the propeller from stones and sand.

The Tri-Gear version is certainly easier to handle on the ground than a taildragger and most people have only flown tri-gear airplanes.  Insurance will be cheaper and easier to get, at least in the beginning until some time is built up in the airplane.  The tri-gear version will be less noisy inside the cockpit while taxiing over rough pavement.  With the new tapered rod nose gear option the build time is not that much greater with the tri-gear anymore as it is essentially a bolt on affair now.  The fairing installation is the majority of the work.  And finally resale might be easier in a tri-gear version as there are more potential buyers.

A 3 point landing in the taildragger Mustang is flown basically the same way as you would land a tricycle geared airplane.  Most M-II flyers typically 3 point land their airplane.  I feel I am more consistent doing a 3 point landing and the approach is usually flown a little slower.  Even in strong crosswinds I usually do a 3 point landing.  Solo, the airplane is quite easy to wheel land as the CG is more forward.  I vary my landing configuration depending upon the situation.  In the Midget Mustang I do almost exclusively wheel landings as they are so easy in it.  The over the nose visibility in the Midget is also not quite as good as the Mustang II.

Personally I would fly our Mustang II into any crosswinds that I would fly our Cherokee.  In fact because of the control authority in the M-II and because I am usually more current in it, I would land the Mustang in stronger cross winds than our Cherokee.  This is not to say it is for everyone.  Once on the ground it is a little more demanding.  The lower tailcone due to the sliding canopy, good over the nose visibility, and wide gear stance make the Mustang II a good handling taildragger.  Some of the older airplanes have had problems with proper wheel alignment because of an improper welding set up, but that is not an issue anymore with our kits.

I had about 250 hours when I started flying the Mustangs.  I went out and got 10 hours dual in a Champ.  Bob Bushby then flew right seat with me in the M-II for a few take off and landings and that was it.  The only close call that I have had was when I ran off the runway in Frankfurt, IL a month or two after I started flying the M-II.  I was grossly over controlling in a crosswind, but once I got in the grass I immediately regained control.  The only real threat was hitting a runway light on the way off the runway.  The plane is not as responsive on the rudders on a surface like grass.  If I had practiced off a grass strip in the very beginning it would have helped the transition go a lot faster and easier.

My father, who had closer to 800 hours when he started flying the Mustang, never had any real problems with the transition after getting 10 hours in a Citabria.

Chris Tieman