In a new collaboration from airshow pilot and flight school owner Patty Wagstaff and Sporty’s Pilot Shop, tailwheel students have been treated with another valuable resource—a two-hour tailwheel training course taught by Wagstaff herself.
The 17-module online video course serves as an in-depth guide to the unique aspects of flying a taildragger. From preflight to mastering crosswind landings, and all the steps in between, Wagstaff serves as a valuable knowledge source for flying conventional-gear aircraft.
“Hopefully, when you see the name Sporty’s or you see my name, you know that you’re going to get a quality product… there’s some good stuff out there on YouTube and then there’s some not so good stuff… I hope people know they're getting a really quality product and that they can trust what we’re telling them,” said Wagstaff.
Wagstaff, a world-renowned airshow performer, backcountry pilot, and flight school owner, began her aerobatic journey at the age of 30. Five years later, she earned a spot on the US Aerobatic Team, where she became the first woman to win the U.S. National Aerobatic Championships. In addition to performing and competing, Wagstaff also uses aviation to serve others. Wagstaff volunteers with the Kenya Wildlife Service, where she provides recurrency and aerobatic training to officers patrolling for poachers.
“With all…the different [types] of flying that we talk about [in] different types of airplanes, the basic rules apply. And that was the main thing to get across in this video… it’s still an airplane. When you push the stick forward, you're going to pick up speed; you're going to go faster. The house is going to get bigger [and] when you pull back [the house gets] smaller. And if you don’t use your rudder properly, you’re going to be in trouble… It all applies the same exact way,” said Wagstaff.
Although some may cringe at the thought of sitting through another training course, Sporty’s and Wagstaff’s content should not warrant such a response. In addition to the highly educational content, the tailwheel course is an enjoyable program featuring impressive footage from aerobatic adventures in Florida, grass-strip hopping in the Midwest, and even backcountry and mountain flying in Alaska.
Although Alaska offered stunning backdrops for filming different aspects of remote tailwheel flying, the Last Frontier also presented various challenges for the production crew. “We were [filming] right in the middle of a field with a bunch of blueberries, so we’re chasing bears away at some points with the airplane. [It] kept us on our toes,” said Bret Koebbe, vice president of Sporty’s Academy Inc. “We didn’t really get back and really appreciate what we'd just gone through until we got back and looked at the footage. And you’ll see that in the course.”
Although the tailwheel course is not an alternative to flying with a certificated flight instructor, it complements traditional flight lessons. “As a flight instructor, I see the benefit of the student taking a course like this, whether it’s for their private pilot certificate, instrument rating, or getting an endorsement like a tailwheel. If you can go through this ahead of time, [you’re] going to be so much more efficient with your instructor… because you can see the control motions, and Patty does a great job in terms of her teaching,” said Koebbe.