I recently went flying with two good friends to Harris Ranch for a steak dinner. The friend flying used to co-own a PA28 with the intent to learn to fly. It turns out that he wasn’t one of the few meant to fly so being roommates I gladly helped out whenever we wanted to take others up. So we were once again going to Harris Ranch just like the old days. There’s lots of silly conversation so please forgive me for that. It’s all in the name of good fun.
Cross country to Harris Ranch from Ron Klutts on Vimeo.
Have you ever been on a trip and discovered the winds have picked up while you were enroute? Or maybe you need to divert and your chosen airport has strong crosswinds. What will you do? Is your crosswind technique polished and ready to use or does the pucker factor go up and you just hope for the best?
I had the experience a few years ago where I checked on the weather about 50 miles out at an intended fuel stop and the winds were in the high 20’s with gusts close to 30 knots. I was approaching a non-towered field and the winds were calm there so I chose to divert and spiral down. But what if I hadn’t checked weather until I got the ATIS 10 miles out and facing a low fuel condition? I wasn’t ready to handle those kinds of winds then, and if there’s a less windy alternate available it’s probably wise to go there.
This is about the worst case scenario where we are stuck by whatever circumstances that we now need to land in a serious crosswind. I call it a “FWA” style landing after the landings I’ve seen on Flying Wild Alaska.
On a recent flight review I conducted we went over to Tracy airport (TCY) for some landing practice. Winds were 230º @24 gusting to 28. After a practice emergency decent from an engine failure we landed on runway 26 to get warmed up. The crab angle on final was dramatic as was the reduction in groundspeed.
After demonstrating short and soft field takeoffs and landings we head over to runway 30 for an extreme crosswind landing. I brief the pilot that if he feels he can’t make a safe landing we can always go-around if he doesn’t like it. It will be good practice to fly the pattern correcting for drift and to establish the crab on final.
This time the crab angle was even more severe as the x/w was about 70º, the nose was pointed what seemed to be about 20-30 degrees left of centerline. The gusts made it bumpy too. Needless to say we were the only ones in the pattern. The transition to the wing low landing went well and to correct for drift with liberal right rudder to stay aligned with the runway. On the rollout it was FULL left aileron into the wind and we felt the airplane wanting to weather vane into the wind. It was interesting to say the least.
We decided once was enough so we taxied over to RWY 26 to depart for home. It was a workout for the pilot but a good exercise to brush up skills and build confidence in something that we may rarely do. Isn’t that the point of a flight review or an occasional dual session with a CFI?
So if your unsure of your ability in any area, grab your friendly CFI and go brush those skills up and get ready for those winds.