Mastering the crosswind
Author: Colin Aro
Article extracted from LightspeedAviation.com
The original article has been divided into four to facilitate the reader’s reading.
Turns and Slips
Well, here we are on short final with the aircraft in a slip to correct for the crosswind component.
We have successfully used the horizontal component of the lift vector to zero out the crosswind component of the wind – the aircraft is pointed in the same direction it is moving, the longitudinal axis is
aligned with the runway centerline and we are ready to make the transition to the ground.
As the aircraft enters the roundout phase, we level off just above the runway and decelerate for touchdown. As the aircraft decelerates, the lift produced by the airfoil diminishes (we wouldn’t touch down otherwise!) and therefore the horizontal component of that lift will diminish. As a result, the cross-control application will have to increase in order to compensate. This means more aileron and more cross rudder leading up to touchdown.
Due to the increasing cross-control during the roundout, it is expected that the upwind wheel will be the first to touch the runway. This is where crosswind correction is most critical – the moment of touchdown. Done properly, the upwind wheel touches first – this sets us up for a few common errors that lead to the dreaded ground loop, especially in a tailwheel aircraft. First, notice that with the upwind wheel grounded and the downwind wheel still in the air, the brake you would need if the aircraft were to weathervane is the one that is still in the air! Correcting for a weathervane by “turning away from it” or in any way putting that downwind wheel on the ground just aggravates the situation. The only way out of this situation is proper technique:
Point the lift vector (ailerons) into the wind and keep the airplane going straight with opposite rudder. We are crossing the controls intentionally. This may feel a bit counterintuitive to the student pilot as it feels like “turning further into the problem”. This is an intuition that must be trained away initially and revisited during recurrent training.
If we run out of control authority during the maneuver, the crosswind exceeds the aircraft’s capabilities, a go-around is called for, and it is time to consider a different runway.
As the speed bleeds off and the downwind wheel contacts the runway, a common error is to give up on that crosswind correction. The rollout phase as the aircraft decelerates to taxi speed is still ripe for side loads and the dreaded ground loop. FULL cross-control correction should be applied at this point. This is actually a natural extension of the roundout phase: as cross-control application increases during the roundout phase it stands to reason that we should go to FULL correction as the aircraft touches down and rolls out. Doing so makes directional control significantly easier and keeps us out of trouble.
As the aircraft decelerates to taxi speed and exits the runway notice that the proper crosswind landing technique places the controls exactly as the FAA recommends for taxiing in windy conditions (see Figure 2).
Upon exiting the runway, we are now taxiing and can begin positioning the controls as Figure 2 suggests. Remember: what this figure is telling us is climb and turn into the wind, dive and turn away from the wind. There is a saying within the tailwheel community: “You’re not done flying until the airplane is tied down”. All pilots would do well to adopt this advice. I have given occasional mention to tailwheel flying starting at the outset when I likened its effect on landing skill to soaring skills and mountain flying. If you’ve never flown tailwheel, give serious consideration to doing your next BFR or WINGS phase in a tailwheel aircraft. It will increase your awareness of certain aspects of your crosswind landing technique and sharpen your skills. A fringe benefit is that tailwheel aircraft can be a lot of fun to fly, so beware – you may find yourself hooked.
Remember that if you’ve ever dreamt of wiling the afternoon away in an open cockpit Stearman, you’re gonna need a tailwheel endorsement when the opportunity comes along.