When the AOPA Flight Training Facebook page asked readers to share what they found to be the hardest part of learning to land, responses amounted to a comprehensive list of the challenges that mark the first major rite of passage for new pilots.
Some offered broad-brush responses: “The hardest part about learning to land was making the airplane not bounce.”
As always, scorn—perhaps only frustration—was reserved for an old favorite: crosswind landings.
As one pilot detailed the dilemma: “Hard to coordinate lowering the wing and using the opposite rudder.”
Practice of course, is key, but typically when learning how to control an airplane on final in a crosswind using a combination of lowered wing and opposite rudder known as a sideslip, much of your attention is diverted by preparing to land on the runway that’s drawing ever nearer.
What if you could prolong the crosswind workout by setting aside the need to deal with the landing?
There’s a practice exercise for that. It requires only your instructor seated next to you, a nice long runway, and enough crosswind to be educational.
Fly your final approach, but instead of rounding out, flaring, and landing, level off above the runway at ground-effect height by adding a touch of power. Fly along the runway at final approach speed, keeping the airplane above the center stripe with a bit of bank into the crosswind and a touch of opposite rudder to keep the nose from swinging in the direction of the lowered wing. Be assertive and make sure to use enough rudder to keep the airplane pointed straight down the runway. That is what makes the method click.
Note that if you don’t apply sufficient aileron deflection, the airplane will immediately begin to drift downwind; if you detect drift, maneuver smoothly back to the centerline and readjust your control pressures. Perform a go-around with a generous margin of runway remaining.
Practice as much as wind conditions and traffic permit.
When you feel comfortable landing from a sideslipped crosswind approach, remember that the upwind mainwheel should touch down first. Deceleration will bring down the others.
Maintain aileron deflection during the touchdown and ground roll—important for directional control—and use proper control deflections for the wind conditions as you taxi to the ramp.