Plane & Pilot
Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Control The Crosswind!


It can be vexing to any pilot, but is there a right and wrong way to take on the wind?


There are several ways to start an argument. They range from the old favorites, politics and religion, to the blonde/redhead/brunette thing. Or you can simply state that there’s only one right way to land an airplane in a crosswind and that’s the way you do it. Stand back, folks, brutal words to follow.
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Control The Crosswind! There are several ways to start an argument. They range from the old favorites, politics and religion, to the blonde/redhead/brunette thing. Or you can simply state that there’s only one right way to land an airplane in a crosswind and that’s the way you do it. Stand back, folks, brutal words to follow.

Ignoring the two really big crosswind controversies—do you crab all the way down final and kick it out at the last moment or carry a wing-down, sideslipping configuration to the runway?—there are tons of other factors that affect both schools, but still have a bit of debate attached. Is it advisable to use flaps or not? Do you always carry more speed over the threshold in a crosswind? How do you accommodate gusts? The list may not be endless, but it’s certainly a long one.

Hands down, the most important factor in trying to analyze what kind of situation you’re getting yourself into on final is the age-old question “How much wind are we talking about here?” But when we ask that question, we’re doing so within the mental framework represented by, first, the airplane’s capabilities, and then your own as they relate to that airplane. An old hand in a Bonanza, for instance, is going to see a 15-knot wind much differently than does a C-152 student. So, within reason, you can’t just talk wind speed. You have to talk about it within the limits of your own experience and proficiency as well as what you’re flying.

Of course, all of the foregoing considerably changes as the wind moves off the nose and becomes The Dreaded Crosswind(!). Even a crosswind is good, however, because except for a 90-degree barn-burner, part of every crosswind is down the nose and slows down the airplane. Part of every crosswind is exactly 90 degrees to the airplane, though, and it’s that component that keeps us worried.





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