Crosswind Landings and Wind Gust Factor


Hello readers, please allow me to begin this post by stating that last Tuesday I cancelled the Ground School class due to bereavement in a friend’s family.

This Saturday (06/23/2012) I technically had my very first flight lesson with Logan. I say technically because I had a lesson with him on June 17th that was aborted due to poor weather conditions. We took off and realised that the cloud ceiling was much lower than forecasted and had to return to the airport immediately. Anyway back to this Saturday. This was the first time I had a class from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm since I began my flight lessons last August. Usually I’m used to flying in the mornings but since Logan is also working we now meet when he’s available.

Saturday began as an overcast day but the sun came out later in the afternoon to my delight. I thought it might rain but it turned out to be a wonderful, bright sunny day with a temperature of around 81 F. It was a little breezy though. I arrived at 4.55 pm and greeted Kevin seated at the front desk and immediately checked in. “Your plane is still in the air” said Kevin. “Oh okay” I replied and continued, “Is Logan here” “He’s also in the air with your plane”. So I waited for the plane to return so I could pre-flight it and chatted with Kevin in the mean time. It had been a while since I flew last and that was with Sarah and my performance then was very poor. So I thought and hoped that today’s performance would be much better, even just one landing would be a 100% improvement! At about 5.10 pm my plane arrived with Logan and his student. Logan and I greeted one another by bumping our fists together and saying hello. “I’ll be with you in a moment, why don’t you pre-flight the plane whilst I finish off with some Ground School with this student?” “Okay” I replied as Kevin handed me the plane’s folder, the fuel sampler and a pair of headphones. Just then I realised that I had forgotten my Pilot’s Log book and the check list. I mentioned this to Kevin and he gave me a spare check list I could use. I went to pre-flight the plane and returned 10 minutes later but Logan hadn’t finished with his Ground School. I returned the fuel sampler to Kevin and continued chatting with him and intermittently playing with my phone. The time was now 5:45 pm when Kevin asked, “You’re scheduled for 5:00 pm right?” “Yes” I replied. “Well Logan doesn’t have any other flight lessons after yours so I guess you’ll start later but still get your 2 hours. Unless you have something going on?” “No, I’m fine” I replied.

Ten minutes later I saw Logan’s student leaving and a few moments later Logan appeared. Logan approached me apologizing for the delay and that he was ready to go. “We’ll just stay in the pattern today so I can see how your landings are” said Logan. “Okay” I said smilingly as I really wanted to improve my landings. As we boarded the plane and began putting our seatbelts on Logan said, “Oh man, after this I wanna go and get some Indian food. I’ve been flying since 9.00 am, up and down” and then he laughed. “You like Indian food?” I asked. “Yes and the spicier the better” said Logan and continued, “I like various cuisines, Turkish, Indian, Chinese.” “Wonderful” I said smilingly and then we were both ready to continue with the lesson. I began with my check list and when I reached the point where I had to check if the brakes worked fine I took my feet off the brakes but then Logan said, “You cannot move the plane before you get permission from Ground”. I was surprised as no instructor had mentioned this to me before. “So call ground and tell them you want to taxi to the runway and you want to stay in the pattern” said Logan. I did so and was given runway 14 Right. “Now you can move the plane to test your brakes as you taxi to the runway” said Logan. This was something new I had learnt. Then as I taxied to Runway 14R, Logan began testing my knowledge. “The wind is coming from behind from the right side, so how would you set the ailerons?” “Turn the yoke away from the wind direction and push the yoke into the instrument panel” I said. “Good” replied Logan. As we continued, “What does the “A” in the black square with yellow border mean?” “That means we’re on Taxiway Alpha”. “Good” replied Logan. “What does that red sign in front mean with 14R on the left and then 35L on the right side immediately next to it?” “That means that Runway 14R is on the left and Runway 35L is on the right, so we have to turn left here as we’ve been assigned 14R” I replied. “Good” said Logan.

Once we reached Runway 14R I had to go through the Run-Up check, and when I reached Alternate Static check I learnt something new again. To check the Alternate Static, there’s a little switch below the instrument panel that you pull toward you and then look for drop in the Altimeter and Vertical Speed Indicator dials. This is how I was taught to check the Alternate Static by other instructors. Logan however said there was another way to do it and that was to put the Alternator switch in the OFF position and then to look at the Annunciator Panel to see if the Alternator light is ON to indicate that it had been switched off. Once all the check lists had been finished with we were ready to take off. We moved on to the runway after having been cleared to take off and to make right turns by Tower. I looked at the wind sock and the wind was coming from the right so that meant the yoke had to be turned to the right i.e. in to the wind. Then I took my feet off the brakes and pushed the throttle to full and we began moving. “When the speed dial begins moving you should say, “Speed is coming alive”” said Logan. I did so and then gradually turned the yoke in the opposite direction as we were moving on the runway. When the yoke was in the 180 degree position and the speed had reached 60 knots, I gently pulled the yoke toward me and we were off the ground. “Maintain speed at 79 knots” said Logan and continued, “Look for a reference point straight ahead of you and fly toward it. This way you will keep a straight path and also know if the wind blows you off that path. Then you can correct to get in line with that reference point”. I found a building in front and used that as my reference point and flew toward it. Once I reached 1,400 ft I turned right (as Tower had told me to make right turns) and continued rising at 79 knots still. I looked back to see where the runway was so I could turn in to Downwind. Once I thought we were a sufficient distance into Crosswind and about the right distance from the runway I turned into Downwind and continued rising to 1,900 ft when I leveled off and reduced the power to 2300 RPM. However there was a 12 knot wind blowing me toward the runway whereas I should be parallel to the runway during Downwind. Logan then said, “Turn the yoke away from the runway i.e. into the wind and so can compensate for that wind. Again look for a reference point ahead and fly toward it”. I did so and found a white building I flew toward. Once I was abeam the numbers of the runway, I switched on the Carb heat, reduced the RPMs to 1700 and pulled the first stage of the flaps and pitched for 90 knots. I looked back to see the runway, and when I was about 45 degrees from the runway, I turned into Base leg and pulled the second notch of flaps, and continued the turn to compensate for the wind. My approach speed was 70 knots as it should be on final. There was still that wind trying to blow me off course so Logan said, “Turn the plane in to the wind and use opposite rudder so that you continue to fly straight toward the runway but you’re still at an angle pointing the nose of the plane into the wind”. As we were on short final, I gradually straightened the plane and cut the power to idle and landed the plane safely.

The above was a description of my third Air Traffic Pattern. Although I had landed the plane safely on the first two occasions, my air traffic pattern was not perfect. In fact on the second approach I had overshot the runways 14R and 14L lying next to it and Logan said, “Go round” i.e. not land but just go back in to the ATP and return to land. This happened because of the wind pushing me, but by the third run I had learned to make the necessary corrections for wind. By the fifth landing we were informed by tower that the wind had now increased to 18 knots from 12 knots. This meant that we had to add in this wind gust factor in to the final approach speed i.e. it would no longer be 70 knots. So on the fifth approach to final Logan said the approach speed should be 73 knots. “How do you know that?” I asked. “I’ll tell you in the briefing” said Logan. Again the actual landing went fine. I landed the plane one more time before we decided to end the practical lesson and moved on to the briefing. In the briefing Logan taught me how to calculate the wind gust factor:

The wind initially was from 170 degrees @ 12 knots. It then increased to 18 knots.

The difference between the final and initial wind speeds is: 18 knots – 12 knots = 6 knots

Divide the 6 knots by 2 and add to final approach speed. So, 6 / 2 = 3. Add 3 knots to the final approach speed of 70 knots to get 73 knots.

“This is known as the Wind Gust Factor” said Logan and continued, “It should only be used in gusty winds with no more than 2 notches of flaps i.e. 25 degrees of flaps”.

Logan concluded by saying, “Your landings are fine man. We can work on the air traffic pattern and that’s like smoothing off the rough edges. In your next flight lesson I’ll see how you’re on the maneuvers and then you should be ready for your first stage check”. We then booked my next Ground School class for Monday between 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm.

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2 responses to “Crosswind Landings and Wind Gust Factor

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