The Physics of Landing Different Styles of Airplanes

By Will Salzman

Physics 212

The differences between tail wheel planes and tricycle gear planes are easy to notice when you look at them from the
side. On tail wheel planes, the two large wheels (otherwise called main landing gear) are on the front of the airplane under the engine, and the small third wheel is under the tail.

The landing gear on a tricycle gear plane looks like a tricycle, as the name suggests, with the two big main gears on the middle of the plane and the smaller third wheel on the front of the plane under the engine.

The different configurations make landing these planes different, but in flight they behave basically the same. However,
if you were to land a tail wheel plane partially crooked you might be in for a surprise. Why? I'll get to that in a minute. To understand it you have to look at the center of gravity of the plane and have an understanding of the laws of physics.

Newton's laws and Center of Gravity

Tail Wheel Planes

Tricycle Gear Planes