Shoes? Who thinks about shoes before flying?
Submitted by Lou Radecki
In some airplanes you just might have to think about proper footwear.Â The issue is having a feel for the rudder control while not interfering with the rudder pedals or brakes.Â The very best shoes for pilots of tailwheel airplanes are casual Driving Shoes. (Driving shoes as in loafers, not the fireproof boots worn by NASCAR drivers.) They are narrow, soft, comfy, often without laces that might get caught, have rounded heels that grip the floor, and are designed so that drivers, or Formula 1 wannabes, can feel the accelerator and brake pedals as they weave through twisting road courses at speeds we can only dream about in many of our planes.
Some airplanes, especially Piper Cubs, Aeronca Champs, and other narrow tandem seated airplanes designed in the 1930s and 1940s were built around men who averaged 140 pounds and had size 8 shoes. In these airplane types, the rear seated pilotâ€™s rudder pedals and brakes are situated to either side of the forward seat with very limited space between the seat structure and the cabin walls. This can definitely become an issue when your student or passenger exceeds these diminutive dimensions.
Trust me, crosswind takeoffs and landings can be absolutely thrilling when wide footwear encasing size 12 feet get caught up in the combined mess of cables, seat tubing, rudder pedals and seat belt attach points that congregate in the already narrow confines of a tandem trainer. The extrication antics definitely provide entertainment for your adoring onlookers as you careen from side to side down the runway attempting to wrestle control from the tangle of feet wires, and airplane structure.
As you might guess, getting a feel for the rudder and its effect on tailwheel airplane landings is a great part of the tailwheel experience.Â It has been suggested that going commando in the footwear area would give the best tactile feedback. Great idea exceptâ€¦there are rudder cables and associated connection hardware near the rudder pedals. There can be cable ends and even a bit of frayed wireâ€¦ouch. Bleeding and pain are distractions. Doesnâ€™t work.
If you are a newly hired Regional Airline Pilot, or Freight Pilot, your first choice for cool pilot footwear will naturally be cowboy boots or chelsea boots. Bad choice because the tops of the boots can get jammed under the instrument panel and cause some real fun.
Real pilots might go online and find Test Pilot Boots. Save these to impress your friends but donâ€™t even consider them unless you are flying a B-52. They lace up all the way and will inhibit your ability to use delicate ankle action on the rudders.
How about sandals for flying? Nope, too loose and easily caught up. Flip-flops? You gotta be kidding. Running shoes? Too wide and too stiff for feel. High heels?…slip then on after flying and before stepping out.Â Cross training shoes? Might work if narrow. Boat shoes? Usually good, just keep the laces short.
Precision piloting is very much a matter of making a series of good choices. Start at the top by using your mind to assess all of the factors affecting your proposed flight, and donâ€™t quit until you select the proper flying footwear.
Article submitted by Lou Radecki: Past charter pilot flying single and twin-engine Pipers and Â freight in a pair of really old Twin Beeches.Â I began corporate flying and spent a number of years with a major corporation from Madison WI. After that, I managed the air charter arm of a Madison WI FBO and acted as Chief Pilot and Director of Operations. I am currently flying for a large food processing company located in Wisconsin. I have somewhere over 19,000 hours.Â I now am living my dream of teaching basic and advanced tailwheel techniques in my Champion 7EC. I always wanted to make flying fun and easy and have worked out a curriculum that allows pilots to earn a Tailwheel Logbook Endorsement in a very short time and at a very fair price. I really love what I am doing and get very enthusiastic when I have time off from my corporate job to devote to tailwheel instruction.