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Highlander T3 Tailwheel Suspension

PostPosted: Wed Jun 07, 2017 8:53 pm
by Winston
I recently broke my tailwheel spring and mangled my rudder. I was able to fly home wth the bent rudder with nothing more than a little bit of extra right trim. I decided to replace the spring with a coil over shock suspension and picked the T3 manufactured by Airframes Alaska (http://www.airframesalaska.com/T3-Tailw ... s/1899.htm). They do not have an off the shelf unit for the Highlander so they referred me to Dan Dufalt, the designer: https://supercubsnorth.com/.

Dan was very helpful and came up with a mounting block that fits in the tail spring channel. It came with two 1/4" bolts that were intended to go up through the channel were it protruds on either side of the end of the fuselage. I did not have room to drill these holes so I drilled a 5/16" hole up through the mounting block and the fuselage where the lower longeron tubes come together and about 2 1/2" aft of the 3/8" spring mounting bolt. Catching a nut on this 5/16" bolt was an ordeal so I would highly reccommend doing this before covering the fuselage.

The T3 assembly is very nicely made and seems to work well. I have added some pictures of my mangled rudder and how I fixed it without recovering. I don't notice the missing bit and now it won't hit the ground if I lose the wheel.

Winston
Fairfield, Idaho

Re: Highlander T3 Tailwheel Suspension

PostPosted: Wed Jun 07, 2017 9:49 pm
by danerazz
Pretty cool.

Pricey, but it looks like a quality piece. Easier than modifying the highlander fuse for a SS tailwheel suspension.

Re: Highlander T3 Tailwheel Suspension

PostPosted: Thu Jun 08, 2017 2:31 pm
by Tralika
Winston,
Sorry to hear about your mishap. In the photo the break on the leaf spring looks pretty clean. Was there any indication that it had started as a crack and progressed over time? Any corrosion or discoloration on the broken surface? Your not the first one to experience a Highlander tail spring failure. I've been thinking of have a double leaf spring made for my plane. Your plane looks good. I painted mine red as well. I getting close to finishing the build.

Re: Highlander T3 Tailwheel Suspension

PostPosted: Thu Jun 08, 2017 3:30 pm
by Winston
John

I talked to Steve Henry after my spring broke and he said he did a similiar thing as you, adding a spring doubler. The tail spring channel on mine is not deep enough to add a doubler though. Steve also said you need to change the spring periodically because they do fatique. Mine broke after 730 hours. There is no obvious indication of a previous crack but in our climate steel takes a long time to rust.

The paint I used is Stewart's 7AC Orange but everbody says its red so I've given up trying to tell them its actually orange. It shows up well.

Good luck with your build. They are a lot of fun to fly.

Winston

Re: Highlander T3 Tailwheel Suspension

PostPosted: Fri Jun 16, 2017 4:53 pm
by av8rps
That is a VERY SLICK setup! I really like that solution for what has been an issue with the Highlander tail spring for ever.

So how do you like your no chains / full swivel nosewheel? I'm curious as I bought one just like it used from a Rans guy that didn't like it, so he went back to a Matco. But I haven't tried it yet, so I'm curious what you think of it.

Re: Highlander T3 Tailwheel Suspension

PostPosted: Fri Jun 16, 2017 10:30 pm
by av8rps
Oops...I meant tailwheel, not nosewheel.

But while I'm here again, did you notice any speed loss with that new tailwheel system? While it looks like a great suspension system, it does look pretty draggy. Again, just curious.

Re: Highlander T3 Tailwheel Suspension

PostPosted: Sat Jun 17, 2017 8:37 am
by alan
Howdy y'all!.

I took the chains off my Highlander several years ago, just to try it that way. I didn't like it AT ALL!. No tailwheel steering bad! I really liked that T3 tailwheel until I noticed that. I wonder if I could put my tailwheel on the T3?

Alan

Re: Highlander T3 Tailwheel Suspension

PostPosted: Sat Jun 17, 2017 8:51 am
by alan
I guess I should have looked at the website more carefully. The Rans part has tailwheel steering.

Alan

Re: Highlander T3 Tailwheel Suspension

PostPosted: Sat Jun 17, 2017 1:46 pm
by av8rps
Alan, hearing you didn't like your tailwheel with the chains off, if it was a regular tailwheel it probably didn't have a center detent to keep tailwheel straight. If that were the case I could certainly see you not liking that as it probably was a handful to control and had lots of shimmy.

But tailwheels designed without chains and are free swiveling are a whole different animal.

Re: Highlander T3 Tailwheel Suspension

PostPosted: Sat Jun 17, 2017 3:40 pm
by danerazz
If I'm not mistaken, the T3 shock takes any tail wheel you want to put on it, doesn't it just replace the spring suspension?

Re: Highlander T3 Tailwheel Suspension

PostPosted: Sat Jun 17, 2017 4:25 pm
by 957DK
I have the Pekola Tundra Lite free castering tailwheel on my Highlander. I like it a lot. The only complaint I have is that it can be a pain making a turn when on ice or snow. Wanna turn to the left? Press the left brake and the left tire will lock up and slide, no turn. I've only had one occasion where I had to shut it down, get out and push the plane around the corner. During normal operations there are no taxi issues.

If you just remove the chains from the standard Matco tailwheel I can understand why you didn't like it. In order to taxi and make any turns, you'd have to overcome the centering function of the tailwheel and exert enough force to break it free of center. The Matco just isn't designed to be run without the chains attached.

Just my 2c.
Dan Kretchmer
N957DK Alaskan mod Highlander in Minnesota.

Re: Highlander T3 Tailwheel Suspension

PostPosted: Sun Jun 18, 2017 2:02 am
by Winston
The T3 system works great and the component quality is excellent but does not include the tailwheel itself. I have an Outcast tailwheel (not sure if he is still in business) that, like the Pekola tailwheel, uses friction washers to provide a little resistance to turning. This resistance is not enough to prevent a turn on the ground using a little brake but does keep the wheel straight when you takeoff. I have been running it for a number of years and have never felt the urge to go back. Turning on ice and snow is difficult using the brakes but I usually use power and rudder to blast the tail around.

Winston

Re: Highlander T3 Tailwheel Suspension

PostPosted: Sun Jun 18, 2017 9:10 am
by alan
About a year after first flight I installed the smallest Maule tailwheel on our Highlander because the Marco originally speced for the early kits was too light weight. This tailwheel works great. I did have to replace the tire with a zero turn lawnmower tire because the sidewalk was breaking down and fraying through the tubes. It does require positive steering as I found out. Challenging indeed! 2 years ago it shimmied one time too many and broke the spring. On inspection it had been cracked for some time. It also cracked the airframe just forward of the tailwheel bracket. I added some gussets in the area and had a professional welder melt it all together. Some research revealed that tight chains will prevent shimmy. So far so good, but with 125# on that spring at rest, it is only a matter of time before another crack sneeks in.

Might have to look at that T3 setup.

Re: Highlander T3 Tailwheel Suspension

PostPosted: Sat Jun 24, 2017 8:18 am
by av8rps
Thanks for the comments. I have both an Outcast tailwheel, and an early Pekola tailwheel for my Highlander, but I haven't tried either one yet as I haven't taken the time to change it out from tbe Maule on it currently (which I really dislike).

One of the reasons I haven't done anything yet is because I was thinking I wanted to find a double leaf tailwheel spring, as I just feel the single leaf on it currently seems flimsy. Especially if I hang a 11 inch tired tailwheel from it. So seeing this T3 option looms like it could be a good one. Almost as good as having a SS tailwheel? And then again, I'm probably overthinking this as I generally am not landing in places like Steve Henry does :D

Re: Highlander T3 Tailwheel Suspension

PostPosted: Sun Jun 25, 2017 2:47 pm
by Winston
Doubling up the leaf spring was not an option for me since my Highlander tail spring channel is barely deep enough for the main 3/8" thick spring itself. Any additional spring might allow the main spring to rotate out of the channel on the one 3/8" bolt. Welding on the channel was not an option since I don't want to mess up the fabric. The T3 has 25+ hours on it and is working great.

Winston