One that didn’t work

April 18, 2008 by Mike Collins

It sounded like a great idea–fly from Frederick, Maryland, down to Tangier Island, in the Chesapeake Bay, for crab cakes. It was a windy spring day and the forecast called for the possibility of moderate turbulence. Except for a few small bumps the air was smooth.

When I got to Tangier Island, however, the wind must have been 35 knots, perpendicular to (and blowing water onto!) the narrow single runway. Even with full rudder deflection the wind pushed me to the right of the runway–and that Tampico, like¬†its Tobago and Trinidad siblings, had a lot of rudder authority.

I gave the approach two tries and then diverted to Crisfield, Maryland, which had a runway conveniently pointed into the wind. You always have a Plan B (and file an alternate restaurant), don’t you?

Two other airplanes did make it into Tangier Island that day. I later learned that one pilot, flying a twin-engine Beech Baron, had to use differential thrust to land in that wind. The other was a Cessna Skyhawk, and I sure would have liked to see its arrival.

The crab cakes at Crisfield are every bit as good, by the way. In case you were wondering.


4 Responses to “One that didn’t work”

  1. Pete Bedell Says:

    I remember that day! One advantage of a twin is “extra rudder” with thrust. My friend Tommy won’t ever forget that day either. He felt sick for days and was seriously considering taking the ferry off that island.

  2. Rob Mark Says:

    And is this the place where the famous “Crabby Patties” from Sponge Bob were developed?

  3. Jim Dulin Says:

    A technique we use out West, where this situation comes up most afternoons in summer, is to make our base leg into the wind so that our groundspeed is the lowest possible. Rather than use the center line we use full flaps and make the centerline a 1,000 foot line between the extreme downwind corner of the runway and the upwind large airplane touchdown zone marking. At the lower groundspeed and using the apparent rate of closure approach with full flaps we can easily put a 172 down on the altered runway available without using brakes. With faster airplanes like yours that do not have Fowler flaps you could choose to use brakes or just turn down the upwind side of the runway at the large airplane touchdown zone marking.

    The apparent brisk walk rate of closure approach and landing technique are covered in my book, “Contact Flying,” by Jim Dulin. It is available on

  4. Matthew Kent Says:

    I flight instructed for almost 3 years in Michigan, between 2008 and 2011, and now I’m working in the airlines. Here’s a few things I learned about different airplanes in crosswinds:
    1. A cessna 152 has enough rudder authority to take a 25 knot crosswind with full flaps (30 degrees flaps)
    2. A 172 has can only take up to about 20 knots direct crosswind with full flaps (30 degrees)
    3. A Piper arrow seems to be able to handle just under 20 knots crosswind with full flaps

    In a 172, I found that just raising the flaps from 30 to 20 degrees added a significant amount of rudder authority, and made it a bit easier to land
    Another technique I played around with was to raise the flaps in the flare. This gives you all the rudder you could possibly need, and it allows the plane to stop flying and stick on the ground.

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