Crosswinds Lesson 3

The Landing

As you fly your base leg you will more than likely add your next notch of flaps (20 degrees in Cessna, 25 degrees in Piper). You may consider leaving the flaps at just 10 degrees if you find yourself already low in relationship to where you are in the traffic pattern or if the winds are exceptionally gusty (landing a few knots faster with a lower flap setting will give you more airflow and authority over the flight controls to maintain positive control of the aircraft.

As you turn base to final, you will not make a full 90 degree turn in this example (wind 320 on rwy 23). As you turn from left base to final, you will want to stop the turn early (perhaps on a 245 degree heading) so you may crab at an angle into the wind to maintain runway center line. As you fly your final approach, consider increasing your approach speed by half of the gust factor, or in other words; wind is 320 13 gust 21 (you have a 8 knot gust factor) you would want to add 4 knots to your final approach speed. If you’re unsure what normal approach speed is, 1.3Vso usually works well (that’s 1.3 times the stall speed in the landing configuration).

The Method

Once you are about 1/4 mile final or sooner, you will want to transition to the wing low method (using rudder to align the longitudinal axis of the airplane with the runway center line). At this point, rudder is used for YAW, and BANK is controlling your sideways drift. If you drift left of center line, you will need more BANK to the right, if too far right, reduce your bank to the right. NOTE: when dealing with a strong cross wind 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.

The million dollar question is “how much bank, and how much rudder do I need?” The answer is as much rudder as it takes to make the nose line up with the center line of the runway (make the nose line up with the direction of travel of the airplane over the ground), and as much bank as it takes to generate enough horizontal lift to cancel out the crosswind. It is important to make control inputs in small amounts and give time for them to take effect, i.e. If you are drifting left in this scenario with 5 degrees of right bank applied, increase to 7 or 8 degrees, and give it a second to act against the inertia of the airplane to see if that is what you need. Quickly going from 5 degrees of right bank to 15 degrees will usually result over the next few seconds, the aircraft stopping left drift and beginning a right drift increasing in speed, which will cause you to be too far to the right and then make you reduce the bank angle by 5 to 10 degrees (again, too large of a correction), which will then start the left drift all over again. Students spend enormous amounts of time chasing themselves “oscillating” back and forth over the runway never fully managing to touch down the aircraft with no sideways drift. The secret to accomplishing a crosswind landing without sideways drift is managing bank angle in quick small amounts to constantly cancel out the crosswind. Looking outside the airplane down the length of the runway, making quick control inputs that cancel each other out (i.e. turning the yoke 20 degrees right and a half second later turning it back to the left 20 degrees, leaving you with just a small bank correction to the right even though you made large control inputs. DON’T hold the controls in any one position too long, keep it moving!)

Once you have your longitudinal axis aligned with the direction of travel of the airplane (hopefully right down the center line), you have no sideways drift (your bank angle has canceled out the crosswind component), and you have your descent rate under control (using power to adjust altitude and cushion your landing), then you are ready to land! The upwind wheel MUST be the first wheel to touch (NEVER the nose wheel), and by touching the upwind wheel first you will be able to keep from skidding sideways as the airplane transitions back to a propeller powered go cart and settles onto the runway. For our scenario, it will be right main, left main, then finally nose wheel. Even if you do have some sideways drift component to the left as the wind is pushing your airplane just before touch down, by touching the right main first it will ensure that the airplane skips harmlessly to the left instead of biting in hard with the downwind wheel and possibly flipping over. Remember: upwind wheel first. Remember: flight controls become less effective with lower airspeeds as they generate less lift for a given angle or deflection at the slower speeds, this means you may have to increase your control inputs slightly in the roundout and flare as airspeed decays. The simplest way to take care of this, look outside and respond to changes in attitude just as you would when driving your car down the road, automatically apply the control input you know will correct you back to the proper attitude.

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 roll out 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 center line 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 roll out).

Next you will watch a short video detailing crosswind take offs and landings, following that you will take a short quiz. Some of the quiz questions have not been addressed in the paragraphs above, but should be familiar to you from our Private Pilot Ground School (under the ALL COURSES tab at the top of your screen).