master crosswind landings

Crosswind landings are among the most difficult flying maneuvers to master. To improve yours, start by following the principles of “stabilized” landings. (See my post, “make better landings.”)

Here are some tips that specifically address the challenges of crosswind landings.

Once established on final approach, separate your thinking for use of rudder, yoke, and elevator:

  • Use rudder solely to align the airplane’s nose with runway heading.
  • Use ailerons (bank) solely to adjust your lateral position left and right to keep the plane on the (extended) runway centerline.*
  • Use elevator solely to control pitch and implement the flare.

As you’ll see, when the plane drifts to one side of the centerline, banking toward the centerline will move you back where you belong. At the same time, use rudder to keep the nose properly pointing straight down the runway.

In gusty crosswinds, each control will need continuous adjustment – but once you can keep your thinking straight on which does what, the adjustments become pretty much automatic no matter what the wind does. Your instructor will address related issues like setting your approach speed based on wind conditions. That leads to an additional important point:

Under crosswind conditions, pilots often face some combination of gusts, along with variable wind speed and direction. Your plane may float due to increased approach speed, while simultaneously (or alternately) experiencing increased sink rates in the crosswind slip to landing. Accordingly, under crosswind conditions you must “fly the plane” all the way down, throughout the landing roll, and not relax your vigilance or control efforts until parked at the tiedown! In fact, loss of control on crosswind landings often occurs after touchdown when the pilot “stops flying” while still on roll-out.

*How much crosswind is too much? If you find the upwind wing must be held dangerously low to the ground to stay on centerline, you’re certainly exceeding the aircraft’s crosswind capability and should go around rather than attempting landing, and proceed to another airport with more hospitable conditions.

(Mastering crosswinds is not easy; frustrated pilots should also read my “Learning Plateaus” post.)

©2009, 2019, 2022 Gregory N. Brown

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