No matter how many times we have flown the airlines in real life, we would be hard pressed to recall the last time that we boarded an aircraft at the end of the runway. It’s time to expose the mystery of taxiing the flightsim DC-3, and begin or end the flights properly… at the terminal!
Initially, one is baffled. What’s the big deal about turning a DC-3 while departing from a gate or entering a runway? turn left, left rudder; turn right, right rudder.
It’s not that simple, for two reasons:
- At slow speeds, insufficient air flows past the rudder for it to be effective.
- The DC-3’s rudder is small for the size of the aircraft.
This unhappy situation leaves us with two controls to steer the aircraft: the engines and the brakes. Effective use of them, however, especially together, can give us a much sharper turning radius than with a tricycle gear aircraft. So let’s mount our trusty DC-3 and find out whether a mortal truly can taxi her.
Before we taxi out to the tarmac to give it a go, understand two basic principles:
- Use the inside brake, the one nearest the center of the circle, to turn.
- Use the outside engine, the one farthest from the center of the circle, to turn.
Not a bit of that information is useful, though, until we solve the visibility problem while taxiing the DC-3. All we can see is the sky. Trust me, nothing will quite ruin our day so much as taxing into a fuel truck. Well, taxiing into the boss’ office is a close second.
So, change that viewpoint! Dedicate one for taxi and make sure it has good side to side vision as well.
Ok, send all the gigglers away and we’ll get started. First, though, be aware that taxiing is ever so much simpler and more enjoyable if you have rudder pedals. Plus pedals greatly add to the realism of flight (and you’ll finally discover what that ball in the Turn and Bank indicator is present for.) But be certain that the pedals can operate the aircraft’s brakes, too.
Satisfactory ground steering is impossible unless the Rudder Auto-coordination is off, in X-Plane this means binding your rudder controls.
Let’s begin with brakes-only steering. To clear the airport of all other aircraft, we affix a “Student Pilot” sign to each side of our fuselage, in such a position to cover the AKV logo. Next, we move the aircraft to a runway. Adjust your view and set the props to the High RPM position. For this situation, leave the engine controls locked so that both throttles advance together, etc. Now advance the throttles sufficiently to taxi down the runway at 15 to 20 kts. Easy on the speed, though … nothing quite so embarrassing as lifting off while taxiing.
NOTE: Flightsim brakes differ from those on a real aircraft or from those in your car … they are digital, either fully on or fully off. However, if you use rudder pedals, or a script (and in certain aircraft) proportional braking is available.
Follow this routine
Taxi to the turn-off, and tap the left brake to turn left. If you have rudder pedals, also apply the left rudder pedal. Proceed down the taxiway and again tap the left brake, and apply the left rudder pedal, to turn left toward the beginning of the runway. Using the sims “slew” command, Rotate the aircraft 180 degrees and repeat the above taxi maneuver but in the opposite direction, which requires right turns.
We’ll repeat the procedures we just did for brakes-only steering, but this time we will control the aircraft’s direction with its engines. Again move the aircraft to the runway and verify that the power controls are able to move independently.
Increase the throttles to begin your straight-ahead taxi up the runway, about 10 to 12 knots is a good speed. As you near the turn off, slowly increase the power on the right engine to navigate the turn. You can synch the two throttles together again for the straight portion of the taxi if you wish, as you near the runway, unsynch the power controls, and control the left turn by adjusting power to the right engine, and taxi to the end of the runway.
Again rotate the aircraft by “slewing” it to the runway and repeat this procedure in the opposite direction, controlling the left engine for the right turns.
If you have rudder pedals, apply left rudder when turning left, and right rudder when turning right. The newer versions of the DC-3 have steerable tail wheels to assist in steering.
Brakes and power-control for steering.
This method gives the most control to turn the DC-3. Move the aircraft to the runway, synch the power controls, then taxi up the runway until near the turn off. unsynch the power controls, tap the left brake and carefully apply power to the right engine to accurately control the turn onto the taxiway. Repeat that procedure for entering the runway with another left turn.
Lastly, move the aircraft to the runway and repeat this procedure rotated, making right turns by tapping the right brake, and increasing power to the left engine.
1) Taxi twice in each direction using Brakes-Only steering.
2) Taxi twice in each direction using Power-Only steering.
3) Taxi four times in each direction using Differential steering.