Crosswind Landing Technique
Us aviators are mere playthings of the elements, particularly the wind. An important part of good airmanship is to know what the wind is doing at all times and this is vitally important in the circuit. Apart from being an essential piloting skill, being competent at crosswind landings will boost confidence in your flying ability. You will also be equipped to handle a broader range of weather conditions and won’t be so much at the mercy of the elements.
There are two recognised crosswind landing techniques – the crab method and the side slip.
The Crab Method
The approach is flown using rudder to crab the nose into wind away from the direction of drift. The result is that the aeroplane is flying a straight track down the runway centreline, but the nose is pointing to one side. This technique compensates for any drift downwind of the centreline. However, touching down in this position puts too much stress on the undercarriage and tyre side walls, and you also run the risk of veering off the runway.
To remedy this situation, the aircraft is kicked straight with rudder just at the right moment before touch down. This is called ‘de-crabbing’. The timing has to be spot on. Too early and you will be blown off the centreline; too late and you run the risk of landing in a sideways position. After de-crabbing, some into wind aileron is applied, to prevent any potential drift downwind.
One thing to bear in mind is that the wind strength closer to the ground may be less due to surface friction. You may therefore find that you need less crab angle as you descend.
The Sideslip Crosswind Landing
With this technique, the approach and landing is flown with crossed controls. The aircraft is banked into wind using aileron to allow for drift. Opposite rudder is also applied to keep the aircraft aligned with the runway centreline, which will also prevent it from turning into wind.
You may know that slips can also be used to lose height rapidly (forward slip vs sideslip) say when you have misjudged an approach. It is worth noting here, that in terms of aerodynamics there is no difference between a slip used in a crosswind landing and one used in order to lose height.
Whichever crosswind landing technique you use is a matter of choice. Many flying schools tend to teach a mixture of the two; a crabbed approach followed with a sideslip during the flare. Judging the right amount of required stick and rudder inputs for either of these techniques can seem challenging at first. But as with everything in flying, and life for that matter, practice makes perfect!
Until next time, go slip those surly bonds!