Crosswind Landing: Learning The Basics in Small Aircraft
Crosswind conditions increase the risk of the landing, and as a student pilot, it is imperative that you become very comfortable with a crosswind landing. You never know when the wind will become greater than expected, and you need to be prepared for all circumstances.
“A crosswind landing is a landing maneuver in which a significant component of the prevailing wind is perpendicular to the runway center line.”
As a student pilot, crosswind landings are very important to learn, so do not avoid crosswinds landings. A good instructor will take advantage of crosswind conditions to teach his or her student the proper techniques. Practice makes perfect, therefore as a student your instructor should be looking for opportunities to train you in the techniques of crosswind landings. There is no other way to become comfortable than to make landings in crosswinds.
“A crosswind landing starts with proper alignment of the aircraft with the runaway.”
As the aircraft approaches the ground, the pilot should be prepared to make needed corrections (alignment with the runway) depending upon the strength of the opposing winds.
There are two ways to perform crosswind landings. The first technique is the “crab landing”. Crabbing is a technique used to head the nose of the aircraft into the wind while keeping the track of the aircraft aligned with the runway. During the crab, the heading of the aircraft will not be aligned with the runway (aircraft nose will point into the wind), but the direction of the aircraft will be in alignment with the runway.
A quick strong force (side-load) imposed on the landing gear during a crosswind landing could cause damage to the landing gear and result in the loss of the control of the aircraft. It is not wise to land (touch down) the aircraft sideways (pointing into the wind while tracking with the runway) without landing gear capable of pivoting to align with the runway.
Therefore it is necessary for the pilot to align the aircraft with the direction of runway (landing the plane in straight alignment with the runway) prior to touchdown.
The other popular crosswind landing method is the “slip”, which requires greater skill compared to the crab. During a slip the pilot uses the rudder, to align the nose of the aircraft with the center of the runway, and using the aileron to correct the airplane’s drift to align with the runway center line.
The amount of aileron and rudder required will be dependent upon the strength and change of the wind. There could be a lot of adjustments as you approach touchdown. After landing the student pilot will continue to use the ailerons into the wind and keep working the rudders to maintain a straight track down the runway.