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Tailwind (in more ways than one)

A friend of mine scratch built a Wittman Tailwind some years ago that was featured in magazines, won a prize at Oshkosh etc. Its surely one of the best Tailwinds ever built, if not the best. However given other planes and projects it hasn’t been flown much in the last few years, until moving to a new owner. Yesterday he flew it from the west coast to his home at an airpark near Wichita in central Kansas, with one stop for fuel in Moriarty New Mexico. That’s about 1000 nm and he was six hours en route including the fuel stop, with a healthy tailwind pushing the Tailwind along. Link to flight history here Ground speeds are up to and over 200 kts.

I think it’s a remarkable performance for a 1953 design that carries two and bags in a reasonably spacious volume, burns only 8 US gph and initially cost $25K to build (not counting labor), with some additional cost for improvements along the way since then. Of course the current owner paid considerably more, and was primarily purchasing the craftsmanship not the materials cost.

Last Edited by Silvaire at 07 Dec 19:43

Silvaire wrote:

Ground speeds are up to and over 200 kts

Well, as a starter GS does not not mean a thing, period. There is only one real speed, and it’s called TAS, though sometimes equivalent to IAS (which on our slow moving proppies is the same as CAS).
Back to the Tailwind, yes, these little critters are good performers One of my good friend South of the Alps owns one, powered by a O-320, and it was doing a good 155 IAS at around 3K ft on a ISA+10 day, thereby slowly overtaking me in that weird VEZE… good ol’ times

Considering the period it was designed, the Tailwind was well ahead of its time. On the other hand the craft is minute, Steve the designer was a slender gentleman, and I’m not sure many of today’s Americans (and some Europeans…) would be able to even board a Tailwind solo… two up? dream on

ain't the Destination, but the Journey
LSZF, Switzerland

Ground speed matters if you can quickly climb to 13,500 eastbound and take advantage of a tail wind. Hence the name of the design.

This one in current form is pretty fast regardless IIRC about 175 kts IAS at low altitude, or slightly more (on an IO-320). About the same as an RV-4 with the same powerplant, but the Tailwind has a lot more room inside. I rode in it quite a bit as a passenger, including for the Kit Planes article photo shoot. It was hard to keep it behind Marc Cook’s Glastar for the photos, much throttling back required

The cabin is not particularly narrow and like most of them built anytime recently the seat back on this one is moved back in what’s termed the Jim Clement Mod. Lots of leg room too (I am quite tall) with the 50 USG carbon fiber wing tanks, and therefore no fuel tank between you and the engine. Also easier to get in and out of than almost anything other than a Cessna Cardinal, the Clement mod also widens the door opening. It’s great for old guys in that regard and a remarkably good design.

Where it could use improvement is in control harmony. It’s not hard to fly, actually fairly easy, and it has no intimidating characteristics but without going into great detail it’s a bit weird/different until you get the feel of it. You fly it with your fingertips and without a lot of stick force gradient.

Last Edited by Silvaire at 08 Dec 02:01

Great Airbum article found here

Oxford (EGTK), United Kingdom

Yes, a bit dated, but very good article.

I have always liked the squarish lines of the TW, back to the times when a few turned up at OSH. And it was also on my list when I was evaluating an aircraft to build, competing with the T-18 and the Bushby Mustang, and the Vans.

But today’s trend has changed, and for a lot of people is to want an airplane, and want it now
From what I observe within our association more and more people are going for quickbuilts, or quickly built kits. The typical homebuilder has changed from builder to assembler, or systems installer, with its associated pros and cons.

As for the Tailwind, this talk has wetted my appetite… I’ll have to go beg for a ride South of the Alps

ain't the Destination, but the Journey
LSZF, Switzerland

One day we were trying to come up with a list of the items that the builder did not build from scratch on this Tailwind. It’s a very short list…. Tires, wheel bearings, fuel valve, landing and position lights, instrumentation, engine controls and autopilot (it got one after the linked article was published). The wheels, brakes and landing gear legs were manufactured about 50 meters away, down the hangar row by an associate of the builder. The engine is a conglomeration of mostly Lycoming parts, but is not a standard model and was assembled by the builder. It makes about 170 HP.

Last Edited by Silvaire at 08 Dec 15:07

Looks very similar to the new high wing Sonex/Waiex. Although it’s hard to imagine a high wing Sonex looking anything but this.

The elephant is the circulation

Looks very similar to the new high wing Sonex/Waiex.

John Monnett (Sonex founder) was a Steve Wittman disciple, and many years ago located the company on Wittman Field in Oshkosh, where Steve lived. They’re still there now.

LeSving wrote:

Looks very similar to the new high wing Sonex/Waiex

Historically speaking the sentence should read “the new high wing Sonex/Waiex looks very similar to the Tailwind”…
As to the resemblance, well… but true, both are hi-wing taildraggers in a standard configuration using a cantilever wing. Like others do. Looking forward to compare the performance though

ain't the Destination, but the Journey
LSZF, Switzerland

Dan wrote:

Like others do. Looking forward to compare the performance though

A bit like a Lancair. Everything flies (fast) with a big enough engine in the nose The high wing Sonex will most certainly have a 100-130 HP engine, possibly a standard 100 HP Rotax 912 or ULPower as default, maybe even the (hardly) 80 HP Aerovee, and the performance will be accordingly. All Sonexes are also rather fast with 100+ HP. The Sonex will probably be a lighter design to start with, less wing loading, and capable of flying well with a smaller engine than the Tailwind.

The elephant is the circulation
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