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Loss of Directional Control on Landing

The Bearhawk is a well mannered aircraft among tail-draggers. However tail-draggers as a group are more challenging to handle during take-off and landing, and this shows up in the insurance premiums and accident statistics. One of the most common accident types in this group is loss of directional control on landing. Although it is not usually associated with serious injuries (it can be), it can often be damaging and expensive.

A viewing of the NTSB database for reported Bearhawk accidents shows a very high occurrence (17 at last count) of Loss of Directional Control on Landing (Ground loop). In addition, two more are reported to have occurred more recently.

The majority of these accidents occurred early in the aircraft's life, many within the first 100 hours and several in very first few hours. When viewed as a percentage of the total number of Bearhawk aircraft flying, the accident rate becomes significant. It's worth remembering that these statistics only capture events that are reported, and in the case of the NTSB, only in the USA.

There are a number of things that builders and new Bearhawk pilots can do to reduce the chances of a mishap and greatly stack the odds in their favor.


  1. If possible, get training on a Bearhawk from a qualified instructor. If not a Bearhawk, a similar tail-wheel aircraft. A qualified instructor will also ensure that you become aware of other considerations such as Weight and Balance, Go-Around technique, Fuel System functionality etc.

  2. Operate from a grass runway until completely proficient. Grass is significantly more forgiving than tarseal if the aircraft is not perfectly aligned with the runway on touchdown.

  3. Operate in light winds. This will help to keep wind gusts to a minimum. Once proficient the Bearhawk is very capable in stronger winds.

  4. Operate initially in nil or minimal crosswind. This simplifies getting the alignment correct. Again, once proficient, the Bearhawk is very capable in a crosswind particularly with its large rudder.

  5. Ensure that touchdowns occur at minimum speed. If a tailwheel aircraft is not aligned perfectly, any directional control issues are amplified with additional speed.

  6. Keep the CG mid to forward. An aft CG amplifies any directional control issues.

  7. When operating in a crosswind, correct crosswind technique is very important, much more so than a nose-wheel aircraft. This is due to the tendency for a tail-wheel aircraft to turn into the wind. Keeping ailerons into wind (i.e. control stick to the left with crosswind from the left) while taking-off and landing is paramount and greatly assists in maintaining directional control.

The advantage of getting proper instruction on a Bearhawk (and any tailwheel aircraft) from a qualified instructor cannot be overstated.

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