Aviatrix’s latest post on flying up north talks about crosswind landings. When I was a student pilot, and for a while after I got my PPL, I found crosswind landings fairly difficult. Then, one day, I suddenly realized that I’d just landed in a strong crosswind without thinking about it. Much of what I learned during initial training turned out to be of limited value, so I decided to post what actually works for me:
- Almost every landing is really a crosswind landing to some extent, so don’t think of The Crosswind Landing as a special procedure.
- Don’t set up the slip until you’re well below treetop/roof level, and preferably, not until you’re in the flare. The winds at 100 ft (or even 50 ft or 20 ft) may have little or nothing to do with the winds you’ll be landing in. I’ve often had a ferocious crosswind on the turn from base to final that faded to almost nothing by the time I touched down (even the windsock is too high to get the touchdown winds for a 172 or PA-28).
- In the flare (for any landing), think of the controls differently — use the ailerons to slide the plane left/right so that it stays over the centreline, and use the rudder to keep the nose pointing straight forward. Don’t worry about a slip per se — it will just be the natural result of these inputs.
- (Advanced) If the crosswind is very strong, back off on the rudder a bit and flare in a crab, then kick the rudder hard to straighten the nose just before the wheels touch. Don’t try this until you’re pretty comfortable (and probably never in a taildragger, unless you enjoy ground loops).
By the way, I always land with full flaps, even in a strong crosswind. The only time I don’t use flaps is when I’ve seen any trace of icing during flight — if, for some reason, there’s undetected ice on the stabilator/horizontal stabilizer, dropping flaps can cause a tail stall [video], which is almost never recoverable close to the ground.