Time For Some Upgrades


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I love my Tailwind, but after having flown it nearly 50 hours since August, there are some changes I really want to make to it.

1. The airspeed indicator isn’t accurate. I’ve confirmed this with two GPS units while flying with no wind. The ASI is always reading fast so all these approaches and landings I’ve been doing at 90 mph have probably been more like 75 mph. All the flights I thought were into a headwind probably had no wind at all.

2. The tachometer is digital (yuck) and while it does record hours, it doesn’t record true RPM-hours. The engine could be idling for one hour at 800 RPM or revving for one hour at 2,500 RPM and it will record either of those as the same one hour of time. Furthermore, it records time by receiving pulse from one mag, and displays RPMs by receiving pulse from the other mag. This has its limitations because if one of the mags goes out during flight, I will lose either my RPM readout or the interim engine time won’t be recorded. Neither of those are life threatening issues, but I’ve despised digital gauges ever since I first saw them 20 years ago and I want to keep more accurate records of my engine time so my plan is to install an analog recording tachometer. Also, the digital tach is powered by two AAA batteries. When the batteries go dead or get removed, the tach loses its current recorded time and resets to zero! That would NEVER happen with an analog tach.

3. The fuel gauge doesn’t work (it wasn’t properly hooked up to the sender) and the fuel sight tube is dark green which makes it nearly impossible to see the fuel level. I know, I know… a good pilot flies by time in the air, not by fuel gauges. Well so do I, but since this Wittman has a fuel gauge and a sight tube, why not make them functional? Besides, I like having a visual reference of what’s in the tank at any given moment. It’s called cheap insurance.

4. I have my concerns about there really being a 27-gallon tank. I have the original builder’s log book for this Wittman Tailwind and it says he built it with a 27-gallon tank. I’ve looked over all the subsequent paperwork that came with the sale and haven’t found any documentation about the tank being removed or swapped out for something smaller.

5. I want to make room for an iPad for use as a navigation device. :-)

You can see here that the fuel gauge (upper left) reads empty, the ASI was indicating 120 MPH, however the GPS ground speed was 109 MPH (not knots), and the tach is just… blah.

Here’s the fuel sight gauge. The only way to see the fuel level is to place a piece of white paper behind it and shine a flashlight through it. Not very convenient.

3 comments… add one
  • Avatar Rob Dec 3, 2012 @ 15:34

    I’d be interested to learn more of your experience with the W8. For one, assuming you’ve managed some corrective action on your ASI, what sort of cruise are you really getting? And what sort of stall speed do you get? The latter is of particular significance to me, as I’m considering a Tailwind’s suitability to my home turf, 2S1 (Vashon Muni), where we have a scant 2000′ of turf and challenging approaches.

  • Dorian Dorian Dec 7, 2012 @ 10:40

    With my engine/prop combinations, the cruise speeds are pretty much as follows:

    2100 RPM = 100 MPH
    2200 RPM = 110 MPH
    2300 RPM = 120 MPH
    2400 RPM = 130 MPH
    2500 RPM = 140 MPH

    Full flap stall is about 55 MPH. I do all my approaches at 80 MPH with two notches of flaps (or three if I have a passenger) and keep my speed over 70 MPH for a wheel landing. I don’t like 3-pointing a Tailwind.

  • Avatar Keith Oct 5, 2016 @ 1:25

    Three-pointing my W8 G-ZIPY is easy. Keep enough RPM at round-out to ensure that the sink-rate in the three-point attitude is like a glider with half-airbrake. As it touches down on three-points, shut the throttle and raise the flaps, so it stays down. Just like that glider with full airbrake.

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