The nosewheel or taildragger debate is - along with whether or not to prime - one of the most emotional topics to be discussed in the RV community. It resurfaces periodically on various RV newsgroups or mailing lists. Usually, it's not because someone wants to know (everyone already has their mind made up anyway), but because someone makes some offhand comment about how one particular design is better.
In the ensuing snotstorm, there seem to be larger numbers of emotional assertions (i.e., "all noseroller pilots are all weenies") accompanied by smaller numbers of actual good observations. This rant is a collection of the good observations that I've seen go by, mainly in the RV7and7A Yahoo Group. Pretty much all I'm doing here is collecting and organizing comments from people more experienced than I - my personal experience is limited to rides in both kinds, and building a -7A.
Moving right along. Let's start with a list of some statements that everyone seems to agree on, and then see if we can come to some sort of conclusion:
It seems to me that this shouldn't be as big deal as it's made out to be. If you want to build a taildragger, build a taildragger. If you don't care, if you're a low time pilot, or you don't have any experience in taildraggers, then probably a noseroller is the right choice for you.
However, let's not hear any of this emotional garbage from taildragger folks to the effect that noseroller airplanes have training wheels, or what have you. RV-7As have their nosewheel in common with P-38s and F-18s, and, well . . . draw your own conclusions about the coolness factor. If you're the sort of person that thinks that taildraggers are cooler, that's fine too - if that's the right choice for you, that's good too. Both of them are great airplanes.
More comments - 24 March 05 - there's been quite a bit of discussion lately on some of the forums and groups as to how safe the RV nosewheel is in off-airport landings, and there have even been a few folks that have opted to build the straight 7 instead of a -7A because of the supposed issues.
If you want to know what I think about this, keep reading. If not, you better hit that back button.Observations, in no specific order. We'll sum up at the end:
No real smoking guns, really. It needs further investigation, that's for sure. Probably the design can be improved, but doing that at the expense of speed probably isn't going to be really popular in the RV community . . . not that I'm implying that this is a good position. It just seems that most folks would rather go fast and take the (marginally smaller) risk than having to go slower. Can the design be improved without sacrificing (much) speed? Probably. If a factory improvement comes out, my RV will be wearing it.
On the other hand, this situation could likely be improved with better training for noseroller pilots. We can get away with being sloppy - taildragger folks are more likely to get bit in the rear with the design of the taildragger, so they're more careful. If everyone that flies noseroller RVs landed with the skill and care that taildragger pilots have to display, that would probably improve the situation. Is the design safe right now? It's not as dangerous as some folks would have you believe, I don't think. I certainly don't have any qualms about going anywhere in a -A model RV that I would go in a taildragger RV. I've flown off grass strips - grass strips that are in good condition, anyway - in -A model RVs, and I'm perfectly willing to keep doing it whether or not an improvement in the design, pilot training, or anything else takes place.
If it worries you, build a taildragger. It's interesting to note, though, that insurance rates are still lower for noseroller RVs, and it seems to me that insurance companies, of all people, would keep track of the stats behind this sort of stuff.
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