From: Alan Dicker <>
Subject: Swift landing technique
I was talking to a CFI last weekend regarding the Swift. I told him that in my limitedexperience the Swift is always wheel landed rather than 3 pointed. He seemed a little disbelieving and unfortunately I wasn't able to give a good technical reason why this should be other than to say that I had never seen anyone perform a 3 point landing in the airplane. Can you give me any insights into the aerodynamics so I can talk to him more about it. I did look in the Swift operations blue book but couldn't find any reference to landing technique. Thanks. Alan

I can tell your CFI friend has never tried 3 point landings in a Swift! I had reasoned out all the things that combine to make them difficult - I'll see if I can remember them here.... The stall strips on the leading edge of the centersection are the main culprit. As the nose is raised in a 3 point flare, they spoil too much lift causing an abrupt increase in sink. Many Swifts have the CG too far forward - they land much easier with an aft CG. Most Swift pilots approach at too high a speed for a 3 point landing. 1.3 times the indicated stall speed is the secret. If the airplane stalls at 50 indicated then 65 is the number. Also the flaps create a ground cushion, tending to balloon the airplane up, then as it stalls it is too high up and drops in - hard. Having said all this I used 3 point landings almost exclusively after I had 1000 hours in the Swift. I found it more satisfying and a bit of a challenge. These days, I have MS and don't fly often enough to stay proficient, plus my motor skills are not what they used to be, so I only fly when the winds are favorable and then I trim airplane nose up, fly a stabilized approach and let it land itself out of an 80 mph approach.

I thought of another factor in 3 point landings in the Swift. That is the ratio of yoke displacement to elevator movement. In other words, not much movement of the yoke produces a lot of elevator reaction. The Swifts that have stick controls installed have a different ratio - it takes more aft pull to get the same up elevator - so it's somewhat easier to modulate the flair.

In 40 years of Swift flying I can only remembering hitting the tailwheel on the runway before the mains once! I was returning from the Swift fly-in on 5-30-83. I got held up by headwinds and found it necessary to deviate to Winona, MN for fuel. A thunderstorm lay directly ahead. The approach was over the Mississippi River. On short final, but over the runway thank goodness, I ran into a wind shear. From about 30 feet up I sensed the airplane was plummeting. I applied full power and pulled back on the yoke to the stop. Unbelievably, it greased on tailwheel first with full power! Getting the power off, the roll out couldn't have been over 2 or 300 feet! (Not a recommended procedure, and I probably couldn't do it again for a million bucks!) -- Jim


The following was my reply to the question by Alan Dicker regarding three point landings in a Swift.
Here is something that has been unfortunately repeated many times. A CFI is talking with a Swift owner and says...

"You only wheel landing that Swift? Here, let me take you out and show you how to three point it. No, I've never flown a Swift before but all taildraggers are the same..."

Many Swifts have been wrecked by so called "expert" CFIs who insisted that ALL taildraggers MUST be 3 pointed. This is a very narrow minded attitude and does not respect the fact that all taildraggers are not designed the same. How much flying time does this CFI have in a Swift? If he has never flown a Swift then it is unfortunate that he would make a determination like that without the experience to back it up. This is why we are so concerned when non-Swift experienced CFIs attempt to do Swift checkouts. Like I said, we've lost a lot of Swifts that way and it was an important reason for me to start listing the names of Swift qualified CFIs on my web page. I'd tell you to let him try to 3 point your Swift so he could learn for himself but I don't want to risk your airplane just to educate him.

Now, a stock Swift CAN be three pointed but it is not easy and everything must be done just right. In other words, no margin like you get in more docile taildraggers. Wheel landings or slightly tail low consistently work best. An attempted three point that is just the least bit off can lead to a very sudden arrival to say the least.

A stock Swift is very difficult to 3 point for two basic reasons. The stall strip on the leading edge causes the airplane to stall before it can be easily put in a 3 point attitude for touchdown and, the airflow over the elevator is not as effective as it could be in the 3 point attitude. If the stall strip is cut in half, that lowers the stall speed 5 mph. Then, if a modified trailing edge fairing is installed (many Swifts have them) the airflow over the tail is improved to a point where three point landings are consistently possible.

When we bought Erin's Swift back in 1986 it had stock stall strips and the stock trailing edge fairings. I couldn't get it to three point to save my life. (And neither could anyone else...) I had Buzz Winslow cut the stall strip in half and add the extended trailing edge fairing. After that Erin's Swift would three point like a Cub. Still does in fact...

All pilots, including CFIs, should always consider each type of aircraft they encounter as a "new experience" until they learn what characteristics they have in common with other similar types, and what characteristics they don't. I don't assume my flying technique in the Swift would work with a Luscombe (a taildragger I've never flown...) so I would not advise someone on how to land a Luscombe based on what I do in a Swift. I also fly a King Air but would not give advice to someone flying a Cessna Conquest based soley on my King Air experience.

From: Bob Runge <>
To: Denis Arbeau <>
Subject: 3 Point Landings
I read the sections on 3 point landings in the Internet Newsletter and just wanted to let you know that I regularly 3 point land with my Swift with not much trouble. I have a reduced length stall strip and the closed up wheel wells for smaller tires as well as the smaller tires. Although I prefer a wheel landing, I can do either with not much fuss. I am far from a pro in a Swift as yet. Best regards....... Bob Runge

From: Larry Simms <>
Subject: 3 point landings.
Read with interest the comments on landings made with Swifts. Way back in the 50's we speculated about the 3 point landing that could trash a Swift when tried by the beginner. Although we did not have a lot of data to go by we also came to the conclusion that the big problem was the stall strips. However, we did notice that at about the time the stall strip caused the inboard section of the wing to pay off the lift generated by the slots was at max. We came to this conclusion without supporting data, other than tufting the slots, that when the airplane was transitioning through this area something like this happened, the center section of the wing started to stall, with the stall progressing outboard, at about this time the slot was developing maximum lift in the process of keeping the airflow over the ailerons. This condition would cause a momentary ballooning of the airplane followed by a sharp loss of lift of the airfoil section of the slot. This sudden loss of lift caused the airplane to fall. Most Swift pilots, when learning to fly the airplane, do not realize the speed with which all of this can happen. And in most cases full power will not help. My checkout pilot made only casual mention of this condition to me, but when it happened to me I was on the ground before I could react. Luckily I didn't damage the airplane.

Perhaps someone would like to comment on our assessment of what we thought was the physics of what participated this condition. -- Larry Simms

From: Bill Whelchel <>
Hi Denis,
First and foremost, I very definitely admire AND respect your expertise and really enjoyed the comments regarding 3 point landings. I knew about the stall strips affecting the stall speed (never changed mine though) but did not know about the trailing edge fairing affecting the airflow across the elevators. I also thought that it helped reduce the parasitic drag and that was it. So that explains why I had so much trouble with 3 pointers. To be honest with you, I would get it right only 3 out of maybe 5 times. Good but not best.

I remember providing an orientation flight in Rod Miles Swift (N 3214K) back in the late 70's. He was an Air Force Colonel (ret. and CFII) and flew the Twin P-51 configuration (P-82) in the service. After he completed seven very good wheel landings at Tracy (and no brakes on the right), we were returning to SJC and entered the pattern when he said how about 3 pointing this landing. He wanted to see how it was done. I explained that it was not easy but would give it a try. Just before turning base to 30R, the tower advised me that they would be turning the runway around after I land and that the wind was turning into a left quartering tailwind @ about 15 kts (for those using 30R). What a feeling as I turned final and being the last a/c for this runway, felt like it was a mistake (the doubts) to even try a 3 point though I had about 50 hrs in Rod's plane (and over a 1000 hrs in my own a/c) but decided to go ahead. It amazed me, the touch down was so smooth and clean without a bounce that the Col. looked at me and really complimented me. That left quartering tailwind probably helped but I was aware that the tires did squeal a little louder than normal. Talk about pressure when a professional is on board. :-)

Anyway Denis, I can't agree with you more. Thanks for the memories. Keep up the GREAT work on the Swift Web Page.
Best Regards, Bill "Missing the action" Whelchel, formerly ole triple 8 Ball (grin)