From the back seat, instructing tips/tricks?


Staff member
Mar 27, 2018
New Jersey, USA
A friend of mine allows me to keep old '81G in his hangar in return for being able to use it when he feels like it. He's a CFI and has asked about using it with his 18 yr old daughter to get her her Private license.

What would a CFI that is experienced in taildraggers but not as a tailwheel instructor need to know if transitioning to the back seat of a 7ECA to teach a new student?

If I were to work with him while in the front seat what drills would be most helpful for him to make the transition?



Well-known member
Apr 3, 2018
Tacoma, WA
It's cake, once you get used to not being able to see a damn thing over the nose. Initially I operated off of long and wide runways when I started flying from the back of the Citabria, and made a point to land long (I usually drop it in between threshold lights). This was probably the first time I've ever used the 1000' touch down markers outside of a check ride. I still pad my touchdown point slightly, but now I'm landing in the grass bays at airports where that isn't prohibited or otherwise unpopular. Those are under 800' total length. A half dozen landings and it will be no big deal.

I do have a bit of time in the BT-13 and T-6 where the nose blocks the view ahead anyway. There are a couple of schools of thought on dealing with not being able to see forward. Some suggest intentionally looking off to one side instead of looking forward and using your peripheral vision.

I can't get myself to do that but it's kind of like the "North up, or Track up" discussion. Do what works for you and don't worry about the other folks who do it wrong (obviously).

My logic is that the tail is coming up quite soon anyway, and at the start of my roll I'm watching manifold pressure (it's real easy to overboost the P&W 985 and 1340 so it takes some monitoring). I do strongly prefer to operate off of the centerline, usually taking the center stripe down the left side of the cowl where I can see it misbehaving out of the corner of my eye. I'm doing maybe 10 mph when I get that MP needle pegged where I need it and just when I get my bearings ahead and the stripe goes by I'm feeling for enough air to lift the tail. Then all is golden.

They say you'll have some real hair on your chest if you can fly a T-6 from the back. I haven't tried it yet but honestly the peripheral view is better from the rear because the wing blocks quite a bit from the front seat. One of these days I'll find someone who is already rated in the T-6 to sit up front and cover me.

In the Citabria, while you can see even less over the nose because of the human blocking the view, it is narrow and your vision to the sides provides quite a bit of "feel". I have found that you have a much better feel for yaw issues back there too. At this point the only time I fly up front is if I'm solo. I put non pilots up there if they have the aptitude to change COM frequencies. I still pick out more traffic than my students.

On final I have the person up front shift slightly to the right so I can see the airspeed indicator.

Lastly, long flat approaches will be agonizing. Back when people landed Corsairs on carrier decks they flew a continuous 180 degree turn to the numbers, and all of the above tells you why they did it. It doesn't even have to be much of a turn to see where you're going, and being high just means you'll have to slip anyway (unless you have those flap thingies). If I have to fly a straight in I intentionally stay high until I'm close.

Bob Turner

Well-known member
Apr 4, 2018
The big deal is insurance.

Be aware that an owner's policy covers the owner while he is receiving instruction, but not the CFI.

CFIs need special policies. Mine is with SAFE, and it is roughly twice the cost of my J3 policy. It does not include hull, so when I climb into the right seat of an aircraft I cannot afford to buy outright, I get a Waiver of Subrogation from the owner's insurer. Avemco calls it a "Recovery Rights Endorsement", and it is free.

My Decathlon insurance includes $52K hull, and it "goes with me." If I am not instructing, I can fly someone else's airplane and remain covered. The instant I get in the right seat all bets are off. Special CFI insurance is necessary.

To answer your question - ease in to it. Put a qualified pilot - preferably a CFI - in front, and practice a bit. Do not let your first few students out of a very tight box. You get a bigger box with experience.