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Training and Safety Tip: Thinking about spring winds

Spring winds are often the final fight between winter and the coming summer weather pattern, and they can present a direct or near-direct crosswind component for flight operations at many airports. For student and low-time pilots this is the time of year to think about crosswind planning and technique.

Spring is a time of change and new beginings and is a good time to schedule a lesson to knock off rust and sharpen skills in windy conditions. AOPA graphic.

Current and forecast surface winds are an important consideration for your springtime flying. Your ability to skillfully handle the crosswind in airplanes you fly determines your springtime limitations. Always be cautious and conservative, set and hold to personal minimums, and train to expand those limits. If you need additional flight training to expand your comfort level in windy conditions, consider it time and money well spent and schedule an appointment with a flight instructor.

Keep in mind that early morning springtime surface winds may be calm until midmorning when the warming ground temperature causes the air to rise and mix with the speedier winds aloft. This weather pattern results in increasing surface wind speeds. Don’t let yourself be fooled by those benign conditions, only to find yourself in an uncomfortable situation later.

You also need to think about taxiing the airplane in the wind.

You should always be thinking about the direction and velocity of the wind as you taxi the airplane from tiedown or hangar to the runway and apply the proper rudder, power, and aileron inputs. The requirement here is to keep the upwind wing from being lifted and flipping the airplane. In a tricycle-gear airplane, the elevator should be neutral in a headwind and “diving away” from a tailwind.

Ed Helmick

Ed Helmick has been a flight instructor since 1988. He formerly managed a flight school in Spanish Fork, Utah, as well as schools in Scottsdale, Arizona; and Honolulu, Hawaii.
Topics: Aeronautical Decision Making, Flight Planning, Mountain Flying
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