CHAPTER 11. Approaches and Landings

Crosswind Approaches and Landings

Many runways or landing areas are made such that landings must be made while the wind is blowing across rather than parallel to the landing direction. All pilots should be prepared to cope with these situations when they arise. The same basic principles and factors involved in a normal and power-on approach and landing apply to a crosswind approach and landing; therefore, only the additional procedures required for correcting for wind drift are discussed here.

Crosswind approaches and landings are more challenging than normal landings because of the wind drift in the pattern, crab angles on approach, and generally more mechanical turbulence for the fi nal approach and roundout because of buildings and/or trees along the sides of the runway. Since mechanical turbulence would typically increase as the aircraft descends closer to the ground, power-on approaches and techniques for fl ying in turbulence should be utilized.

Crosswind Pattern Procedures

Since WSC aircraft typically fl y tighter patterns, the pattern should be modifi ed if the crosswind is in a direction pushing the WSC aircraft toward the runway. Refer to Figure 11-24 for the following discussion. The normal or typical pattern downwind and base for calm winds is shown in blue. This pattern would also be used if there were an opposite crosswind from that shown blowing from the runway toward the base leg. If a strong crosswind (15 knots as an example, which is a limitation for many WSC) is noticed while fl ying the down wind or the runway wind indicators show this crosswind, at “A” the decision should be made to modify the pattern, making it wider by fl ying out to location “B.” An extended downwind should then be made farther than the typical normal pattern to “C.” This provides additional distance from the runway for the base leg, which will be at a much higher groundspeed than normal because the WSC is fl ying in a strong tailwind from point “C” to “D.” The turn must be made at “D” to set up for fi nal approach at “E” where there is a signifi cant crab angle. From the fi nal approach at “E” to touchdown, the pilot has suffi cient time to establish the ground track in the center of the runway and evaluate if the landing should be completed, a go-around performed, or a different landing location selected with more favorable wind conditions.

Effects and Hazards of High Crosswinds for Approaches and Landings

Figure 11-24 illustrates a scenario that includes the effects and hazards of high wind, referencing groundspeed, high rates of turn, and power requirements for making downwind turns in close proximity to the ground.

During the downwind leg of the pattern, the pilot does not notice the strong wind blowing the WSC aircraft into the runway. From points A to W, the pilot reduces power as normal but does not crab into the wind and drifts with the wind toward the runway between points A and W. This leads the pilot to be closer to the runway when he or she turns onto base. The pilot turns onto base and is traveling at high groundspeed and the strong tailwind leads to the pilot passing the runway centerline normal fi nal approach at point X. From points X to Y, the pilot starts the turn for fi nal approach late because of the high groundspeed. The WSC aircraft past the runway centerline leads the pilot to increase the bank to make it back to the centerline. The previous errors lead the pilot into a high bank angle at low altitude pointed down in a rapid descent. This leads the pilot to apply full power at Y, which drives the WSC aircraft into ground at point Z.

The error chain that led to this accident could have been avoided at two primary points. First, the pilot should have noticed fl ying in a crosswind or indications of a strong crosswind on the runway from airport wind indicators at A. He or she should have then widened the pattern into the crosswind from A to B and performed the recommended crosswind procedure described earlier.

Second, if the pilot did not realize the high wind blowing to the runway until point X was reached, the wings should have been leveled and a go-around performed without trying to “make it” back to the runway as shown in the yellow “goaround” path shown on Figure 11-24.

For strong crosswinds beyond the capabilities of the pilot or limitations of the WSC aircraft, an alternate landing strip should be found. This could be another airport or landing strip that faces into the wind. An option at uncontrolled airports is to choose an alternate runway or even a taxiway that faces into the wind. Some of the larger airports with wide runways make it possible to land at an angle if needed; some are wide enough to land across the main runway. At towered airports, the air traffi c controller can assist the pilot and provide an alternate landing area if requested.

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