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Training Tip: Crossed up in the windTraining Tip: Crossed up in the wind

There’s no such thing as too much crosswind landing practice. So when the wind came up during a training flight with a post-solo student, the flight instructor scrapped the day’s lesson plan to capitalize on the angular air currents.

When approaching an unfamiliar airport confirm its identity by using one of several methods including landmarks, onboard GPS, or VOR equipment. Photo by Mike Fizer.

A nearby airport with its nice long Runway 12/30 offered a fine chance to practice. So the CFI and student visually acquired the destination over near the hills to the west of their position, and headed over, checking the automated weather broadcast and calling in on the common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF).

It didn’t take long for the CFI to get the idea that something about the scenario just wasn’t right.

“After 2 laps in the traffic pattern, several inconsistencies dawned on me (wind data from the AWOS was entirely wrong and [no-radio] traffic in the pattern not responding to our radio calls), and I realized we were at the wrong airport. We were at that time on the downwind leg, so I instructed my student to climb and depart the area.”

Turns out that instead of flying the pattern at California’s Tracy Municipal Airport with its 4,001-foot-long Runway 12/30 and a 3,438-foot-long Runway 8/26, they were a few miles northwest at Byron Airport, using its 4,500-foot-long Runway 12/30, the CFI admitted in a filing with the Aviation Safety Reporting System. Byron also has a 3,000-foot-long Runway 5/23.

Such occurrences are not uncommon, involving pilots of all experience levels, flying aircraft of all sizes—some almost too big to fly out of airports where they landed.

The CFI offered several ways to prevent such an error. One was to confirm the airport’s visual identification against another landmark: “Byron sits next to a body of water,” and Tracy is near a populated area.

Another idea would have been to demonstrate using the trainer’s VOR equipment to confirm the airport. An onboard GPS was inoperative, and their iPads had been ruled off-limits.

Having spotted Runway 12/30, the CFI omitted to note the magnetic bearings of the smaller runway.

“Also, I should have landed only at airports briefed before the flight. If I had reviewed the airport diagram on the ground, I would have been more familiar with TCY and recognized earlier the inconsistency between the airport diagram and my reality.”

The legacy of this unfortunate lesson aside, it’s still true that there’s no such thing as too much crosswind landing practice.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: Airport, Navaids, Flight Training
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