Staying Cool In A Crosswind!

This was an answer to one of my ground students who recently viewed this video of some awful cross wind landings.

Crosswind- watch the link for some poor examples!

You need to be well practiced in crosswind landings to be able to execute them well, clearly most of these pilots were not and were prepared to take a chance. It’s essential to keep the crab angle on till at least crossing the threshold and then as you straighten the aircraft up with rudder you need to wind on opposite aileron.

You do need to be forceful and really fly the aircraft, control inputs must be positive and confident so that you stay on the centreline and touchdown on one wheel with the into wind wing down.

No need to show off though, just enough wingdown so you sideslip into wind enough to arrive without any drift on that mainwheel.

It doesn’t finish there as you can also see from the rollouts in the video, most are worse than the landings. Once you are down-get full into wind aileron applied and some forward elevator to get the nosewheel on and keep it on, this is NOT the time to try a smooth landing, you have to fight into onto the ground sometimes and that’s what catches people out. You must keep straight and keep the weight on the wheels, dumping flap on light aircraft can help-its the flight manual technique on the Cessna 152.

The landing is not over till you leave the runway, preferably by a taxyway!

In conditions like this you must have GO AROUND clearly in your mind and be ready to throw away the approach right up to a few feet above the runway and divert to your alternate, choose another runway or hold
for the wind to change.

Talking about diverting -what would you do and where would you go If your home airfield became unavailable? It is amazing how many instructors never teach any diversion action or appreciation at all until the student gets onto cross country flying.


Followed by the knowledge and fuel to get there!

               Even if you can’t keep it on the runway always try and keep it shiny side up!

DON’T BREAK THE NOSEWHEEL, it can be a lonely expensive walk back to the clubhouse!

DON’T BREAK THE NOSEWHEEL, it can be a lonely expensive walk back to the clubhouse!

If you look through the CAA AIIB accident bulletins you will notice that the most common type of damage to light aircraft is to the nosewheel and noseweel leg assembly. Nosewheel oleo legs have nothing like the same strength as their main leg assembly counterparts, they are designed to steer the aircraft on the ground, not to be smashed into the tarmac. Consequently if you do arrive heavily, nosewheel first, there is every chance you may be walking back to the clubhouse and even worse maybe facing a big bill (have you asked your club if you damage the aircraft – who pays?)

If you look more carefully at the details of light aircraft landing accidents you will see almost all without exception follow a very similar ERROR CHAIN format something like this:

Low hour pilot or student rounds out too high and bounces heavily, on the second or third bounce the nose wheel assembly collapses or detaches. Sometimes the accident error chain starts with the pilot failing to round out at all and arriving heavily on all three wheels and bouncing back into the air but again its the second or third bounce that breaks the noswheel. Clearly in all these accidents:


Now  for whatever the reason, the bounce is the big clue and your possible last chance to STOP THE ERROR CHAIN.

If the aircraft is still together and you can’t see daylight through the fuselage it’s time to FLY THE AIRCRAFT TO A SAFE PLACE,  this action is called, in this incidence,  A GO AROUND.

What is actually happening when you bounce or make a large balloon (and I am talking large, not a small skip or bounce which we all do from time to time) is that the speed is washing off and you are getting closer and closer to the stalling angle of the wing. Guess where the one place in the whole world is where you do not want to investigate the stall characteristics of your aircraft?. I think you know and you don’t want a ringside seat do you because believe me this is one gig to definitely miss playing a big part in!  As you probably remember something very strange happens at the stalling angle, the nose pitches down, even if you pull back on the column or stick, this pitch down, together with a loss of control and increased rate of descent means that if you do not recover IMMEDIATLEY you are going to get star billing in one of those AIIB bulletins.

So after the first big balloon or bounce your first consideration must be a GO AROUND:

OK,  so lets say you got it wrong, it wasn’t that a big a bounce or balloon but you went around anyway, what did you loose? In fact you lost nothing but you gained some valuable handling experience as well as some decision making skills. Contrast that with making the wrong decision of  just trying to stick with it and hoping the aircraft may make it safely onto the runway eventually, I would say the choice of safe action was a no-brainer, wouldn’t you?

There is far too much empathis amongst pilots on smooth landings and I am sure you have heard that old joke,’ any landing you can walk away from is a good one’. It’s not true, any landing that does not require a technical log entry is good enough but every go around must be excellent, well executed and early!

Amazingly a lot of schools pay scant attention to GO-AROUNDS especially before first solo. Going around instinctively without any effort is much more important than being able to land well and needs to be prioritized. An instructor who sends any student, at any stage, solo without that student being able to perform consistent safe go arounds from a bounce or balloon at round height is not doing his job properly and in my book is irresponsible.


It takes a pilot to fly a go around but a commander to initiate one


See GO-AROUNDS for more tips