Tom Haines

Put your right foot in . . .

April 18, 2008 by Thomas B. Haines, Editor in Chief

Somewhere over the last 30 years, I went from being afraid of crosswind landings to enjoying the challenge. Now, I almost look forward to a stiff crosswind–steady, not gusty, thank you very much.

Many challenging crosswind situations come to mind–some recent, some not so. Just this year, I’ve battled tough crosswinds at nearby Hagerstown, Maryland, and Winchester, Virginia. Zeroing in on Winchester’s Runway 32 last January, the airplane was at a 40-degree correction, it seemed. On short final, I kicked full right rudder to straighten out the nose and rolled in left aileron to keep it on track for an “arrival.” But on such a gusty day, any time you can reuse the airplane, you’re a hero.

The worst ever was St. Mary’s, Georgia, (4J6) a number of years ago. Runway 22 was the plan, but Mother Nature made it difficult with about a 22-knot crosswind component. No flaps, higher landing speed, a good grip on the airplane, and a willingness to go around and look for another airport.

It all worked out. It’s always important to go into tough landing situations primed to abandon the approach for a runway more aligned with the wind. The worst case is to find yourself with a challenging wind and not enough fuel to go someplace else. Don’t go there. And don’t forget to look for challenging crosswind days to go practice. You’ll enjoy the exercise.



8 Responses to “Put your right foot in . . .”

  1. John Trammell Says:

    I learned to fly in an SNJ in 1954. The Navy’s crosswind technique at the time was the slip. Wing down into the wind, and top rudder. Now I fly a Cessna 182, and use the same technique. It’s generally served me well, except in some really severe crosswinds which I experienced at Riverton Regional Airport in Wyoming. Local pilots told me that if you can’t handle a crosswind, it’s best to avoid Wyoming. Sometimes those crosswinds were just too strong, and when I lifted the wing prior to touchdown, I found myself flying low across the sagebrush, and adding throttle for dear life.

    No doubt there are times when the best solution is to find another airport, but on occasion there isn’t time. Having read in this month’s AOPA on line about crabbing until just before touchdown, then cross-controlling, I might try that sometime when my old technique is beginning to appear insufficient.

  2. Rohan Kelley Says:

    The slip or crab or the slip/crab depends on the AC you are flying. The first decision point is conventional vs. tricycle. If conventional, you then have to decide between stall and wheel landing. Substantial cross winds can be exciting in a taildragger, even if you wheel land on one wheel, when the speed bleeds off. Years ago I ground looped an Aeronca L3 (a cub copy) with only minimal damage to the wingtip and none to the undercarrige — very lucky but very exciting.

    But assuming, like most, you are flying a tricycle AC, the decision then branches beween high wing and low wing. The high wing gives lots mor options. For example, I fly a Mooney and the demonstrated cross wind component is around 12K (from memory without my manual) — in any case, very low. Try to slip a Mooney in a stong crosswind and you’ll have wing contact and ground loop very easily. So for me, its a combination slip and crab, kicking it straignt just before touchdown so the upwind wing doesn’t get too close to the ground. The single engine Cessna guys have lots more options to work with.

  3. John A.. Dale Says:

    I learned to fly in the Air Force with the PA-18 and T-6. Later on I flew the ultimate tail dragger, the U-2C. With that airplane you had to maintain a very close airspeed tolerance on final approach as the rate of speed bleed off over the runway at idle power was about 1 knot per 1000 feet and the aircraft had to be stalled to land. I crabbed down final until about 1/2 mile or so and then lowered the wing into the wind keeping the fuselage aligned with the runway with rudder. If more than 3/4 rudder was required to stay aligned the best option was to go to a close alternate field with out the crosswind problem. In higher crosswind conditions I placed more fuel in the downwind wing to use it as a “lever and brake” by forcing the wing to the runway after touchdown to keep the aircrafts’ nose from turning into the wind on roll out as the tailwheel steering and rudder ran out of control authority quite quickly as the aircraft slowed. I use the “3/4 rudder ” technique down final on my Bellanca Cruisair to give me an idea how much control authority I’ll have available before commiting to a landing as well. It’s just another piece of information to know in advance of facing the challenge of a crosswind landing!

  4. Terry Graham Says:

    One year ago, on a gusty spring day, I decided to run down to the airport and wash my (new to me) Cessna 140. The wind might not let me fly but, at least I could shine her up a bit. I had not got the hose and bucket of soap out yet before the first of many said,” You do know the rules, don’t you? If you wash it you, at least, have to fly it around the pattern to dry it off.” At this time I had ,maybe, 25 hr.s of tail wheel time. The wind was blowing at right angles to the runway. 18kts gusting to 25kts. Wait a second. Look at the wind sock. It’s hanging limp.Maybe… No… That would be stupid… Well, call me stupid. The moment I left the pavement I knew I’d really screwed up. 45 degrees correction to maintain runway heading, or at least it felt like that much. My Brain firmly engaged and working by this time, I reviewed my options. I’ll make one approach, if I can’t handle it, I’ll radio my instructor and see if he will drive about 6 miles out to a grass strip, luckily heading more into the wind, and pick me up. Approach is looking good. Wing low, holding runway heading with rudder,correction, lots of rudder. Oh S–t. LOTS OF RUDDER! LOTS OF AILERON! Forget this. Add power and time for Plan B. When I keyed in and asked Jamie if he would come pick me up, I didn’t get the response I expected. Instead of telling me how stupid I was and that he would pick me up in a few minutes. He told me he thought I could handle it, make another approach. After a few pointers and more assurance that he was confident that I was capable . I Agreed. Here we go again. Wing low, but not so much. Some crab so as I won’t have to hold as much rudder. Extra speed but, not as much as the first time. My feet are dancing as the right wheel touches first. I’m left of center, but thats a good thing as my little taildragger trys to turn into the wind. More and more rudder as speed bleeds off. I’m on the ground but, I’m still flying the airplane. I always slide my feet down off the toe brakes when landing so I won’t drag a brake by accident. But, not today. As the tailwheel touches down, I run out of rudder. I drag a little left brake as I’m still trying to turn into the wind. I feel the tail try to come up and I release the brake as I realize I’m still applying foward pressure. Ahh… we’re stopped. I suddenly realize 3 things… I’m drenching wet with sweat… I’m really, really stupid for going up in the first place… and, I’m grinning from ear to ear…

  5. David Dawley Says:

    Friday in a Cessna 150 I was on final to 13. Wind was at [email protected] The last 10 feet down
    I didnt keep enough power on and the wind dissapeared and I dropped in. Nothing like a gusty crosswind to remind you to stay ahead with it all the way in. No damage but definately a hearty reminder.

  6. Chris O'Callaghan Says:

    As a glider pilot, I have very little choice for managing crosswinds. With 25 feet of wing coming out of each shoulder and the tips barely two feet off the ground, to hold a slip all the way to landing is inviting a highspeed ground loop. Of course, slip or rudder, either simply removes side loading at touch down. Both require finesse. The advantage of the slip is that you can apply it early and fly a stable approach to a wheel landing.

    For on airport landings, I will apply the slip after passing the last obstacle, then hold it until I begin the flare. Slowing down would typically require more bank and rudder to maintain track. However, I also ease the ailerons back to neutral and let dihedral raise the wing (to keep the tip from striking the ground). I stop any weather cocking by feeding in additonal rudder. I’ll continue to a full stall landing as long as there’s rudder to spare, but if I run out of travel, I’ll fly it on. Probably the closest you can come to mixing the “techniques.”

    For off airport landings there is no choice. You must fly the crab all the way to stall, then kick the aircraft straight. There are too many opportunities for weeds and swales to reach up and make your arrival too abrupt.

    Regarding a previous comment, while the slip is very stable, in turbulence it is very easy to transition from a slip to a skid while maintaining directional control. I have demonstrated whip stalls (quick reversal of the cross controls) that result in a minimum loss of 500 feet before regaining control – usually 90 degrees or more off the original heading. If it’s rough, I prefer to stay with the crab until I’m no higher than I want to fall. I handle the unexpected best from coordinated flight… a personal preference.

    Safe flying!

  7. Dana Melchor Says:

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  8. Jason Says:

    ha Ha Terry very interesting story hey, will take note of it.

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