This post chronicles a recent flight I did last week, where I practiced crosswind landings, at Caldwell. The wind was blowing 10+ knots directly across runway 10/28.
A crosswind landing (or takeoff for that matter) is generally defined, according to most dictionaries as: “A landing/takeoff maneuver in which a significant component of the prevailing wind is perpendicular to the runway center line.” What does this mean? Basically, the wind is not lined up against the runway (usually you take off and land into the wind to shorten your ground roll; you can get into the air sooner), but instead, blows across it. This makes for some challenging situations. Now, there are set techniques to use, in order to compensate for crosswinds, but even the most experienced pilots still hone their cross wind technique every time they fly. Crosswinds are known to be some of the most challenging conditions to conquer, so it’s important to get as much practice as possible. How difficult can they make a landing? Well just watch this video first:
Notice how the pilot keeps the aircraft pointed into the wind for as long as possible, and just when he gets over the runway centerline, he straightens out, and gets the nose aligned. This technique is the most common to use when dealing with crosswinds, and is called crabbing. In order to maintain the right ground track, the aircraft is kept pointed into the wind. When just over the runway centerline, within a short distance of the ground, you straighten out the plane with your feet (rudder pedals), and then lower your wing into the wind, using your aileron (yoke control). This last part of the procedure is known as a slip, and technically means that you should land on one wheel first, the upwind wheel, before allowing the other main, and nose wheel to touch the runway. This technique accomplishes a few things, but primarily, it ensures that the crosswind does not flip the aircraft over, and most importantly, by landing on the upwind wheel, you are not putting excessive side-loads on the landing gear (otherwise, the landing gear could be overstressed, and fail).
Crosswind landings certainly don’t come easy to me, and I am still working to ensure better technique. They are uncomfortable, and feel awkward to perform. However, the more practice, the better, and going out in 10-15 knot crosswinds certainly helped develop better control in these tricky situations.
Stay tuned for more posts!
Diagram of crabbing: