The July technique piece in Flight Training is on crosswind landings, and we’ve had some good feedback. But the nature of that piece is that it be short and to the point. I wanted to expand on it a bit here.
From a broad viewpoint, being able to execute a crosswind landing is an incredibly important skill. Unfortunately I didn’t realize that until my instrument training. For whatever reason crosswind landings weren’t ingrained during my private pilot training. I learned to fly in Florida, and our airport had two runways, which meant that crosswinds of any significance were rare.
My ah-ha moment came while practicing an instrument approach through to a landing, which turned out ugly. As we were skidding across the runway, I distinctly remember my instrument asking, “Do you not know how to do a crosswind landing?” Sure enough, I didn’t. He taught me very quickly and very succinctly that it’s simple rudder to keep the nose straight and wing down into the wind.
Now, the technique can get more complicated than that, but it doesn’t have to. You should at some point be able to look at the windsock and determine from an outside-in perspective, which way to apply the controls. (Wind from the right, right aileron, left rudder, and so on). But in the beginning, just push the rudder until the nose is straight and turn the aileron the opposite direction. Don’t overthink it, in other words.
So that’s the landing. What about the approach? To me, this is a made-up controversy. You’ll hear people swear by one technique or another. You can either crab into the wind on final approach, or slip it all the way down. My opinion is that you should crab. It’s obvious why this would be preferable. It’s more comfortable for you and the passengers, it’s more professional, we use crabs everywhere else to maintain ground track, there’s less chance of stalling, and I think it’s easier to execute.
The hard part of the crab technique is knowing when and how to “kick out the crab” or transition to a slip. Again, to me this isn’t an issue. You’ll know roughly how much control pressure to add based on how much of a crab you had to maintain. And aligning the nose with the centerline with rudder is very quick and easy. Getting the right amount of aileron is more difficult. But most get it within a few tries. With that in mind, I often kick out the crab as I pull all the power out. You can do it a bit earlier if you like. It’s totally up to you.
Part of my frustration with crosswinds is that they aren’t hard to handle, but yet they account for a huge number of landing accidents every year. Make sure you go out with an instructor and practice. I mean really practice. If you have a crosswind runway at your airport, use it to practice at the highest crosswind component possible.
And if you’re still looking for more crosswind info, check out the video we produced with some action of the control positions.
–Ian J. Twombly