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How to fly Tail-dragger aircraft using an X-box Controller


What Can Go Wrong

Some aircraft are called "tail-draggers" that have a landing gear arrangement using a small tail wheel that is connected to the rudder. For steering on the ground, you must have rudder control.

Tail-draggers can be tricky on the ground. For example, this could happen:

Built In Assistance?

If you do not have rudder pedals or a twist joystick, and have an X-box controller with two joysticks, this this article shows how to set it up so you also have rudder control.

We will set up the X axis of the right stick to be the rudder.

As you may have found out already, for bush flying and off-airfield landings, the Assistance / Take-Off Auto-rudder feature probably won't help your flying, so you will want to be able to control the rudder and tail wheel directly.

Setup Steps

First, create a new controller profile by copying the default. I called mine "rud"

Next, map ←R to "Rudder Axis Left", and R→ to "Rudder Axis Right."

←R means the right stick, X axis left motion
R→ means the right stick, X axis right motion

We still want to have the Cockpit Look Left/Right. So I suggest using the Triggers LT and RT (on the botttom front of the controller) for that.

Also, unmap (clear) the ←R and R→ from External Camera Look Left/Right and remap the triggers LT and RT to External Camera Look.

Joystick Adjustments

The joysticks are too sensitive for flying, so I also suggest setting the curves like this:

Now you have set up the X-box controller more like a radio controlled airplane, with exponential control.

The left hand controls the yoke (for pitch and roll), and the right hand left/right controls the rudder (for yaw).

Throttle is still controlled by both the A and B controller buttons, and by F1 (idle), F2 (reduce), and F3 (increase) on the keyboard.

If you'd like, you can swap the yoke to be on the right hand, and the rudder on the left hand, with more mapping changes. This is called "Mode 2" for drone and RC flying.

Ground Handling Tips

Compared to tricycle landing gear, tail draggers are harder to take off, harder to land, and to steer on the ground. The pilot must be able to simultaneously control the throttle, brakes, and rudder. With a keyboard and X-box controller you can do that, if you change the default setup, as shown above.

I suggest using the mouse only for moving the camera around or to click on controls.

The X-box controller does not seem to handle pressing two buttons simultaneously, so if for example, if you have to stop the airplane suddenly, and you don't do it correctly, the airplane will flip onto the nose, crashing the propeller into the ground (see the video above).

To stop the airplane quickly when it is moving fast, you want to give full up elevator (to push the tailwheel down), cut throttle, and apply brakes all at the same time:

Tip: Lowering the Display Card and CPU to Idle Load while leaving the Sim loaded

I noticed that "Active Pause" and even "Hard Pause" still seems to keep the computer working hard. The CPU and GPU loads are still high, the fans are spinning at a high speed, and a lot of heat is produced.

However, if you open the Load or Save file dialogs, the simulator seems to get fully suspended, and the system cools down. This is useful, because as you know, the simulator takes a long time to load. Perhaps you want to do some other tasks for a while, and then return to running the simulator without waiting for a long reload?

To make the simulator pause, including lowering the CPU and GPU loads, open the Load/Save dialog:

When you see the Windows file dialog, the simulator will be paused. You can now press Windows-key Tab to switch to another task.


nb. there could be some problem that causes the simulator to crash if it stays in this state for too long.

The end.

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