Crosswind Takeoff and Landing

Well here’s some good news, since we get to make our own runway each time with a seaplane, we rarely have to accept a crosswind.  However, when the orientation of the water is such that you will be taking off or landing with a crosswind, there are a few extra things to consider that we’ll discuss in the following topics.

A few things to remember that apply to both crosswind takeoffs and landings:

  • When operating in a float plane, having only one float on the water will cause yaw from the difference in drag.
  • When operating in a hull airplane the sponsons (stabilizers) typically cannot take the load of touching the water first before the hull.  Having a sponson touch the water at landing or takeoff speeds can create quite a bit of drag and yawing tendency.
  • Minimize sideways drift on the water the same as you would try to do on a land plane.
  • Seaplanes of any type typically have a much lower max crosswind component limit than their land plane counterparts.
  • Waves and or the surface of the water is an unreliable way to measure sideways drift, pick a point on the far shoreline to judge if you have any sideways drift component.
  • Some “slippage” is normal as you do not have the same traction on water as you do on land with tires.  Adjust for this before takeoff or before landing to ensure you will not be pushed where you to not want to go.
  • When you cannot compensate for the crosswind component with a component of horizontal lift (by raising one float, say because you are too slow to have one float out of the water), then you may elect to compensate for the crosswind component with centrifugal force instead.  This brings us to the “downwind arc method”.

Downwind Arc

This does not mean you land downwind.  What this means is you curve your path to make the centrifugal force work against the crosswind to keep the airplane from being tilted or rolled by the crosswind.  The idea is to use a shallower turn the faster you are to balance centrifugal force with the wind.  An example of what this might look like on landing is shown below.