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Technique: Crosswind landings

It’s critical—and easy—to learn how to land in the wind

Every student pilot dreads crosswind landings.
Airplane Header
Airplane Header

It seems too difficult to combine the skills of landing with that of maneuvering the airplane into the wind. But once you get the basic technique down, applying it every time there’s wind is not at all difficult. The importance of doing this can’t be overstated. For while landing accidents usually don’t hurt the occupants, they account for a huge number of insurance claims and bruised egos.

The technique comes in two parts—first on final approach, and the second on landing. The first part allows for two variations on the technique. Which one you choose is entirely up to you.

Crab and Slip
crab

THE CRAB

Setting up for the crosswind landing begins on final approach. Since the wind is coming from an angle to the flight path, you must alter the airplane’s attitude to keep it tracking straight into the wind. One way to do this is to crab. A crab—simply taking up a heading into the wind to stop the drift—calls for neutral aileron and rudder. The main advantage to this technique is that it feels natural to passengers.


Three common mistakes

                                                                                                          
slip

THE SLIP

A sideslip will also keep the airplane tracking on the runway’s extended centerline. To execute this technique you’ll need to bank into the wind and apply opposite rudder. The bank stops the drift, while the rudder keeps the nose straight. This technique is good for beginners because it sets the airplane up for the landing early on the final approach, and thus allows one to feel out the wind, and the subsequent control inputs, early.

landing

THE LANDING

Regardless of how you fly the final approach, the landing must be done in a sideslip. The key to a good crosswind landing is to visualize the upwind wheel touching first. Because the airplane is banked into the wind, this often happens in a strong crosswind. Otherwise, success is all about tracking laterally on the runway with aileron and keeping the nose straight with rudder.

1. Off the centerline. If you don’t bank enough into the wind, the airplane will drift off the runway centerline, and if the wind is strong enough, skid that way once the wheels are down.

2. Wrong alignment. Keep the nose straight down the runway centerline with rudder to avoid a crooked landing.

3. Wing down too much. Be careful in strong crosswinds with some low-wing aircraft. Banking too much into the wind could scrape a wing tip.

Mistakes
Ian J. Twombly

Ian J. Twombly

Ian J. Twombly is senior content producer for AOPA Media.

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