Posted by: Chris Davis | January 11, 2011

Taxiway Takeoff

It had been nearly 4 months since I last danced with the Maule and I needed to make a few client visits so I decided to drag her out of the stable to make the rounds.  The winds at Lebanon were hanging around 9 knots and generally out of the northwest, but there was a snow storm on the horizon that I needed to keep my eye on for the day.  I started the flight with plans to head south to Moontown and then make a few stops along the route on the way back home.  With fuel at Lebanon hitting $5.50 per gallon I planned to stretch the legs and fill up at Moontown.  Along the route the winds picked up pretty heavily and I began to question if I had enough go-juice on board to make it to Moontown.  Discretion is the better part of valor so I decided not to push it and make a fuel stop at Shelbyville Airport before heading over the hills of South Central Tennessee where emergency landing options are limited.

The AWOS at Shelbyville was reporting winds of 260 @ 17 with gusts to 21. These winds are sporty enough in the Maule when I have been flying regularly, and would be downright challenging being out of practice.  I had the fuel to return back to Lebanon and lighter winds, but it would be really stretching it and I would be out of options should any landing delays arise.  With one aircraft ahead of me in the pattern I set up for landing on 18 and recited the (Alan) Shepard’s prayer; “Dear lord, please don’t let me screw up.”  I guess it was my hightened sense of attention due to not having flown the Maule in a while, but I greased a one wheel landing in a full forward slip with the flaps up and right wing low. I held it on the right wheel until I lost enough speed for the left tire settle onto the runway followed by the tailwheel and immediately pushed the flaps to negative.  The negative flap setting is a really nice feature on some of the Maules that will kill some lift on the wing which is advantageous in heavy wind conditions.  With the landing completed, the taxi challenge began as the proportionately giant tail was acting like a sail in the gusty winds causing the Maule to want to weathervane all the way to the fuel farm.

I spent about two hours on the ground visiting with some friends and clients before it was time to depart. By this time the winds had kicked up to 260 @ 23 with gusts to 31.  I had a discussion with the line boy and other pertinent airport personnel concerning my intent to depart accross 18  via taxiway Tango which would have me departing just offset of the FBO.  Taxiway Tango is on a 250 heading which would give me a direct headwind and I assured them that with these winds I would need less than 300 feet.  In the event of an engine problem I would only need to make a 45 degree left turn in order to have wide open space for an emergency landing including the use of the parallel taxiway should the need arise.

I taxied out and held short of 18 on Tango while I did my run-up and completed my pre-flight checks.  With all systems go I made my radio call: “Maule 822 crossing RWY 18 and departing back to the west via taxiway Tango”.   I proceeded across 18 and spun my tail around on the eastern edge of the runway…needless to say a small crowd had gathered outside the FBO to witness the event.  I dropped the flaps and pushed the throttle to the firewall…full power and everything in the green I released the brakes and began the takeoff run.  Upon reaching the hold short line I hauled back on the yoke and with 30 kts on the nose I began climbing as if I was in an elevator.  I am guessing my takeoff run was no more than 125 feet.  By the time I passed the FBO I was climbing through 500 feet AGL…old man BD Maule would have been proud.

There are two limitations that every pilot must know…that of himself and that of his aircraft.  Safe flight is found at the intersection of Confidence and Respect.


  1. A grand salute to you young airman. A good call.

  2. Thanks Chris. Great story about good judgment. I had a similar situation when fetching the Great Lakes home from Driggs, ID. I’d made a grand total of 2 landings in it before finding myself short of fuel and having to land at Laramie, WY. I don’t remember the specifics, but I know I chose to land in the grass and tumbleweeds rather than on the runway because the crosswind was so high and I too made a taxiway take-off. With the crosswind as strong as it was, there was no way to avoid scraping the lower wing. Landing in the grass allowed me to touch down with a bit of drift. The result: We got the Lakes home to TN in one piece without any damage. That couldn’t have happened if I’d landed on the pavement.

    I had a good teacher. Sounds like you did too.


    Rick Rice

    • I learned a lot of my tailwheel flying from you so I would say I had a good teacher : )
      I still remember my first Stearman flight and subsequent landing that you helped me perform. My wife still (lovingly) blames you for getting me hooked on tailwheels.

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