Plane & Pilot
Thursday, July 1, 2004

Crosswind Landings FAQs

Maintain and expand your skills by unraveling some frequently asked questions about this intricate technique

Crosswind Landings FAQsThe crosswind landing is a complex maneuver to understand and execute. There are many changing forces to evaluate and juggle simultaneously, and the high degree of control coordination and timing required is seldom matched by any other maneuver of a normal flight. This means that a pilot must use the technique frequently to remain proficient.
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Q: What are the functions of ailerons and rudders during the round-out?

A: Each control performs a separate and different function. Ailerons are used to stop any sidewise wind drift, while the rudder is used to keep the plane’s fuselage aligned with the runway center stripes. When you use ailerons to bank into the wind—let’s say, to the right—the wing’s lift is deflected toward the right, and the tilted force of lift tugs the airplane against the wind. If there isn’t enough bank for the wind, insufficient lift is deflected to the right for the required “tugging power,” and the plane still drifts sidewise with the wind. If there is too much bank for the crosswind, excess lift is deflected to the right, and the airplane actually moves sideways into the wind.

Keep in mind that the degree of crosswind correction that is required rarely remains constant during the round out. The slower the plane’s speed, the greater the crosswind’s effect. This must be met with steadily increasing correction as the plane decelerates from the approach speed to touchdown speed, and you’ll need to stay nimble with ailerons and rudder.

Q: Is there a simple way to improve the crosswind-control coordination that is needed during round-out?

A: Coordinating the controls during round-out does take practice. Unfortunately, the few seconds when it’s employed with each landing don’t provide much time for practice and improvement—particularly since the pilot’s main focus and concern is on the imminent touchdown.

There’s a better and more relaxed way to improve your skill: At 2,500 feet above a long, straight road, establish a wind-correction angle that prevents drift. Reduce the throttle and begin a shallow descent at approach speed, using the road below and ahead as a centerline. Practice the shift from the crab to the slip, a point of difficulty for many pilots. You’ll still have ample time to practice coordination with the crosswind, centerline and your slip. Level off at a safe altitude above the road, climb to your starting altitude, reverse direction and practice with the opposite crosswind. Several cycles of this exercise should have you landing with the best of them.

Q: Is there an easy way to determine the amount of ailerons and rudder to use in crosswind landings?

A: Many pilots who have difficulty with crosswind-control coordination can’t tell you the true reason why the center stripes are there. Center stripes are painted on the runway with the specific purpose to assist control coordination during crosswind landings. It gives a second-by-second evaluation of wind drift and runway alignment.

Picture landing in a right crosswind with the center stripes in full view ahead. If you start to drift left of the stripes, you know you must increase aileron. If, on the other hand, you move right (against the wind), you know to decrease aileron pressure. And if you see the nose cocked to the right of the stripes, you know to increase opposite rudder. If the nose points to the left, decrease opposite rudder pressure. Use the center stripes to evaluate the magnitude and timing of your aileron and rudder deflections during round-out—crosswind-control coordination is as simple as that.


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