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Crosswind Landings

By about lesson 3 in your training you probably will have had the opportunity to experience a few takeoffs and landings, and there’s a good chance there was some wind involved in at least a few of those.

If you haven’t yet seen a nice crosswind blowing across the runway, you’re lucky, and this TOPIC will help to prepare you for the basics of dealing with the wind.  If you’ve already been bounced around out there, hopefully, this will help to give you a better understanding of what your instructor was trying to explain to you as you stared wide-eyed down the runway while he worked the controls around in all sorts of mysterious ways.

Crosswind Takeoff

The takeoff will have two key differences from a normal takeoff. One, you will need to turn the ailerons (yoke or stick) into the wind before you begin the roll to help the upwind wing from being picked up by the wind. This “crosswind correction” will slowly be taken out during the takeoff roll as the ailerons come almost all the way back to center just before the wheels leave the ground. The reason for slowly taking out the correction is that the ailerons become more effective as the airspeed increases during the takeoff roll (meaning you’ll need to slowly work your way back to neutral ailerons; otherwise, you may actually develop enough force to push the upwind wing dangerously close to the ground).

Second, you may use slightly less back pressure during the takeoff roll, and rotate perhaps a few knots faster than usual (3-5 knots in most GA aircraft) to ensure you do not become airborne at a speed where your flight controls will not be able to overcome the forces of the crosswind at the moment you transition from being a propeller driven car to a flying airplane.

Crosswind Approach

On the downwind leg expect to fly with the nose pointed towards the runway when on a left downwind when there is a right crosswind blowing. i.e. downwind of runway 23 is 050, you may be flying 035 or 040. As you approach the point to begin your landing procedures (usually abeam your touchdown point) you will begin slowing down the airplane just before you deploy flaps. As you slow down the airplane, the wind will start to push you further sideways away from the runway (in the case mentioned above). To account for this, you will need to take a slightly larger “bite” or crab angle to maintain your pretty rectangle you are “drawing” on the ground (perhaps 030 instead of 035).

Now that we have our initial flaps set, have slowed down, and started our descent, we will continue to fly out from the runway, but not as far as usual since we are going to be flying a very “long” base leg (given a right crosswind for the runway and being a left base, we will have a large headwind at this point slowing down our ground speed considerably).


Crosswind Landing

Once you are about 1/4 mile final or sooner, you will want to transition to the wing low method (using the rudder to align the longitudinal axis of the airplane with the runway centerline). At this point, rudder is used for yaw, and bank is controlling your sideways drift. If you drift left of centerline, you will need more bank to the right, if too far right, reduce your bank to the right. Note: when dealing with a strong crosswind from the right, you will be using varying degrees of right bank, if at any point you bank the airplane to the left you can expect to be blown very quickly to the left and will probably need to execute a go-around.

After touch down, you may think you are safe on the ground, but you’re never done flying until the airplane is tied down or put away back in the hangar. As you transition to go-cart status, you will want to continue to roll the yoke (or stick) into the direction of the wind to help hold the upwind wing down on the runway and prevent it from getting lifted up by the wind (remember the airplane is still light on its wheels just after touch down and during rollout while the wings are still producing lift with some amount of airflow over the wings). By rolling your ailerons into the wind, you also create adverse yaw helping the airplane track centerline while you use your rudder to fight against the wind pushing on your tail trying to “weather vane” you into the wind. In our case, the left aileron is pointed down, creating extra drag on the left wing, resisting the wind pushing the tail left and making the nose go right (you will most likely still need left rudder on the roll out).

For more help on this, check out our Crosswind Landings Course specifically dedicated to flying in crosswinds.