First solo in variable winds - embarrased

Discussion in 'Pilot Training' started by Gatorj31, Apr 5, 2021.

  1. Gatorj31

    Gatorj31 Filing Flight Plan

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    So I completed my long cross country solo yesterday in a Cessna 172. Winds on the Taf were variable 6kts. However, there were some 10-15kts gusts reported by ATC. I know for all you experienced pilots this is probably nothing, but it really had me nervous. I had to land at 3 different airports, one of which had direct crosswind according to the wind sock, but the sock kept changing direction. My landing at this airport was embarrassing. I didn't land hard or anything, but found it very difficult to maintain center line and was using heavy rudder to keep it lined up and probably 15 degree or so bank. I ended up about 10-15 foot from the runway edge (75' runway) when I touched down.

    So I'm looking for tips and what I should have done better. I know I should have probably gone around and try again, but I have this darn mentality that I need to land it. I landed the same configuration as a normal calm day, full flaps ~65kts final. I think what got me was the winds kept changing on final / bouncing me around. I believe most of my training has been in fairly calm winds or mostly direct winds down the runway so this was somewhat unfamiliar to me.

    Would less flaps / faster speed have made it more controllable in this situation?
     
  2. RussR

    RussR Pattern Altitude

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    You need to lose that mentality, and soon. You can (almost always) go around, and it doesn't mean you are a lousy pilot, it means you made a good decision. We never know what the wind is going to do until we're down in it. So consider each approach a warm-up approach, and be pleasantly surprised if everything goes well and you land. A go-around should be the default mindset.

    Potentially yes, and you're going to get some people here who say to do exactly that, but keep in mind that the faster you are going, the more energy you have to dissipate - which means longer landings, or in the event of a mishap, more damage/injuries. It's a function of the square of the ground speed, so a 10% increase in groundspeed means a 21% increase in energy needed to dissipate. And the faster you're going, the faster things can go wrong. So I prefer to land at the slowest possible forward speed. I would use the same configuration and just get more practice.
     
  3. Matthew

    Matthew Touchdown! Greaser!

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    A wise CFI of mine was fond of saying, "Every landing is a crosswind landing."

    A go-around on something like the one you had trouble with is a chance to get more practice.
     
  4. eman1200

    eman1200 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I can't speak for a cessna but in the mooney if it's truly strong winds and/or gusty, I 'may' not go full flaps, so that should be a talking point between u and ur CFI. then you can go up with him/her and practice in stronger winds than you're used to. also, there is some slogan about every approach is a go-around first, landing second, or something like that. but you got the plane down safely and are also aware of a situation that concerned you, and that you can now get more practice in to get better at it. sounds like you can also discuss the "add half the gust factor" in gusty conditions with your cfi.
     
  5. flyingfrog

    flyingfrog Pre-Flight

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    Go around and try again. You will be surprised how much the wind can change in the last 100 feet of descent. It’s not uncommon to end up in that situation. Go around, and you know what to expect next time.
     
  6. luvflyin

    luvflyin Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    Yeah on “you need to lose that mentality, and soon” said above. There’s a saying out there, ‘every approach is to a go around until proven otherwise.’
     
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  7. luvflyin

    luvflyin Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    Time for

     
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  8. 23103a

    23103a Filing Flight Plan

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    I've flown on a couple days recently like this, one day solo (3 hrs of solo time student here). Those are tricky, but i'll agree with the others that if it starts to get messy because of a weird gust, just go around. Being nimble with the rudder and aileron to control those light and variable gusts is a challenge. I much prefer days where it's blowing 15 knots steady..
     
  9. Gatorj31

    Gatorj31 Filing Flight Plan

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    [/QUOTE]
    This video is great! I think because I've never had to do a go around unless just practicing one on purpose it adds to my mentality that 'I can do it'. I'll definitely start practicing more go arounds.
     
  10. Marshall Alexander

    Marshall Alexander Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Do a low approach with no flaps with a little speed,(in the 172, say 75-80 kts) keeping it in the center of the runway. Go around and remember what you, and the wind, were doing on the low approach.

    Go-arounds are a good sign of good ADM. Instructors and DPEs like that.
     
  11. bflynn

    bflynn Final Approach

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    What they said.

    Otherwise, don't stress. You didn't bend metal and you learned.

    And no, 15 kts variable as a direct crosswind is going to be sporty for everyone flying a small plane.
     
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  12. 1000RR

    1000RR Pre-Flight

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    I just did one of my solo XC's last week, not the 150nm one with 3 landings, but none the less it was about 180nm r/t with 2 landings (there and back). The destination had no AWOS and was non-towered. According to forecasts, in theory I would be landing 14. When I arrived, another plane was inbound and said they were landing 32, so I overflew and joined the downwind and landed 32 (or so attempted). It was pretty much a direct X-wind... about 80* off my left according the windsock. Not sure how much wind, but enough that it didn't take long before I scratched the landing and went around. Next one greased it in. Then coming back to my home airport, the wind was about 30* off my left at 16 kts (according to the AWOS), so about an 8 kt x-wind but swirling a bit. My CFI had put that as a limitation for me (not to exceed an 8 kt x-wind). So I landed legally, but it took me 3 attempts. First two were go arounds, after the 2nd one I was pi$$ed and had a discussion with myself as I went back around the pattern a second time (I may have cussed and called myself some choice words even :D). Greased that one. One thing my CFI has instilled in me is there is absolutely no harm in going around and he actually has said he likes to see when the students opt to go around - it gives him a better feel for their decision making when he's not around. When in doubt, throttle out!
     
  13. David Megginson

    David Megginson Cleared for Takeoff

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    Don't beat yourself up. You'll always have bad days, right up until the day you retire your last logbook, but if you embrace them as learning experiences they'll become less frequent as you gain hours.

    I've posted in other threads what my AHA! moment was with crosswind landings (it didn't happen until after I had my PPL). Forget about memorised procedures like lowering the upwind wing, and just think this way: in the flare, your ailerons are your left-right control, while your rudder is just your point-the-nose-down-the-runway control.

    Do whatever you have to do with the ailerons to slide the plane left or right to stay over the centreline, and do whatever you have to do with the rudder to keep the nose pointing forward. It doesn't matter what the ATIS or the windsock said. Winds are whatever you're experiencing at that moment at that spot on the runway.
     
  14. Lindberg

    Lindberg En-Route

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    No you can't.
     
  15. Lindberg

    Lindberg En-Route

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    Use less flaps in any gusty wind, especially a crosswind where you need more directional control. A 172 probably doesn't need any flaps on that runway anyway. Certainly not full flaps to avoid killing yourself. Then just do the needful. If you're at your limits and it isn't going to work, go around. Otherwise, make it work. The airplane should do what you want it to do, not the other way around.

    I'm not a CFI and certainly not your CFI, but I'd say you should go fly with yours on a nice gusty crosswind day and practice landings until you don't need to look at the wind sock.
     
  16. luvflyin

    luvflyin Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    Lol. Yeah, literally speaking. Probably not a good thing to practice engine outs and go arounds together
     
  17. Brad Z

    Brad Z Final Approach

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    I bet you a $3.52 that as you got closer to the runway you eased up in the ailerons, reducing bank and drifting downwind across the runway before touching down. I'll also bet another $2.73 that after you touched down your ailerons immediately went to neutral, further pushing you across the runway and requiring you to use your rudder pedals to steer the plane away from the runway edge and back to centerline. Once you're on the runway and weight is on the main wheels, start increasing your aileron deflection into the wind. By the time you've slowed to taxi speed you should be at full deflection...which is exactly what you should be doing anyway to account for wind gusts when taxiing.

    Good luck!
     
  18. Arnold

    Arnold Cleared for Takeoff

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    Sorry if this is saying the same thing twice redundantly.

    I'm going to agree with what everyone, mostly, has said. I've been making and NOT making landings since 1977. I've been flying an LSA taildragger these past few years and my ratio of go arounds to landings has gone way, way up. This past Saturday circumstances led me to misjudge an approach in a nose-dragger and even though I made an aggressive effort to save it I knew from the moment I turned final this would end in my going around. Stuff happens.

    1) Good landings are nearly impossible without a good approach. So your first priority is a stable (define it as you wish) well sorted approach.

    2) I treat all crosswinds the same in all aircraft, from airliners (I haven't flown an airliner since 1996 so take that part with a grain of salt) to LSA. Even if you crab down the approach, as airliners do, you must at some point make the nose go straight and stay in the center of the runway.

    3) To do this you must "steer with your hands" (something your flight instructor has drilled out of you) and "point" with your feet. Your ailerons keep you over the center line, your feet keep the nose straight. It is never "set and forget." You will always be correcting from the flare through the roll out. Other than this there is no "right" or "wrong" way to handle the crosswind - do what works. A gust may force the plane to the right and the nose to the right. If this happens then I'm putting in left aileron to keep over the centerline and left rudder to keep the nose straight. I mentally disconnect the two. More often you will be cross controlled but that is okay as well - expected even.

    4) The peanut gallery will forget all about your landing after the next guy messes up so your true goal is to do no harm and you'll incur no foul. Except for that one agent at KBMI in about 1992 who thereafter would never let me forget that I had made a "firm" landing. But I had my reasons related to how the anti-skid in the aircraft worked and the amount of snow on the runway and the 20KT crosswind. Still I was teased for the remainder of my career. Teasing is better than sliding off the side of the runway.

    5) Flaps, no flaps. I don't make reduced flap landings (well in my plane there are no flaps) unless there is a malfunction or I want to practice. Here is why. The usual reason you need to go faster on a windy day is so that you don't run out of rudder or airspeed. So you bump your speed to accommodate the wind, but this will never exceed the Vfe for the ship. What will happen if you go reduced flap/flapless is your sight picture in the flare will be different than what you are accustomed to. Your landing will be flatter risking a wheel barrow. (Note: in the ATR-72 and many other larger aircraft reduced flap landings run a serious risk of hitting the tail). Your additional speed will present its own ground handling problems. So I don't see the point. I will note that in some aircraft, a C-170 for example, my normal landing is flaps 30 as flaps 40 is just too much drag.

    One last point. Even in a nose dragger don't stop flying the airplane until it is tied down or otherwise secured. Then, and only then, the flight is over.
     
  19. Salty

    Salty Final Approach

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    It’s a good mental attitude to think of every landing as a go around - unless everything works out. Look for reasons to abort rather than reasons to not abort.
     
  20. Gatorj31

    Gatorj31 Filing Flight Plan

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    Where should I send your $6.25? I think that is exactly what I probably did because I was lined up nicely until about 2’ off the ground. Even though I know that’s the correct procedure, knowing and doing are two different things. I’m probably scared that the wing will scratch or the plane will swing on touch down so I’m pretty sure I straightened up at the last minute.
     
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  21. PaulS

    PaulS Touchdown! Greaser!

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    A lot covered in the posts above. My only advice is don't focus on the wind sock. Look at it briefly once or twice to get an idea of what's going on, but after that focus on staying on centerline, that's your windsock, and much more relevant information to what you are trying to do, which is land. Believe in the process, don't start taking out flaps, or speeding up unless your instructor tells you that you need to. Landing too fast prolongs the time you have to battle the wind close to the ground. Keep your inputs in after you land, it makes a big difference, "fly" the airplane to the tiedown.
     
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  22. Timbeck2

    Timbeck2 Final Approach

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    Don't worry too much about it. It isn't the first time you were embarrassed and I'm sure it won't be the last. Just learn from it and move on and hope nobody from this forum sees it because you'll never hear the end of it. ;)
     
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  23. Cervieres

    Cervieres Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I had nearly the same experience that you describe on my first long solo XC. Winds were stronger than forecast with some gusts and I ended up going around on the first try. I remember being on downwind and briefly thinking that I was going to fly around the pattern until I ran out of gas because I wouldn't be able to land successfully. The second approach and landing were fine and I've had 20 years of uneventful flying since then. I landed last week in winds 18G28 and didn't give it a second thought. Fly as much as you can and analyze your landings, but don't over think it. Like most activities, experience and muscle memory are the most important factors.
     
  24. Gatorj31

    Gatorj31 Filing Flight Plan

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    How would you describe too much drag? And how would I know if the c172 has too much w flaps sets to 40 degrees? I know in smooth air the 40 degrees is great for a nice slow touchdown, but I’m specifically wondering about gusts or cross winds.

    I watched a training video on cross winds that said the flaps settings on crosswinds will differ per airplane. He specifically mentioned the C172 at full flaps will have a lot less rudder control for cross winds so suggested only 10-20 degree flaps for a 172. That made sense because it felt like I had ran out of rudder and couldnt align the nose any further
     
  25. dmspilot

    dmspilot En-Route

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    The point is to increase the stall speed, not (normally) because of a concern about VFE.
     
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  26. Arnold

    Arnold Cleared for Takeoff

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    [MAJOR EDIT for Clarity and Tone]

    I'm not sure I follow - why is a higher stall speed beneficial?

    Let's face it, in these little aircraft the differences are too small to fly accurately. But for discussion let's take a look at some numbers. You might be right.

    I've just pulled the C-152 manual off the shelf (back in the bad old says instructors actually had to buy the manual). Vso is 35*. On a calm wind day Vref would be 35*1.3=46. With wind 6 G 15 I'd bump the bug (Vref) from 46 to 54 (I'd probably end up at 55 - this is getting closer to rocket science but its still not brain surgery). So margin to stall speed is 20.

    Now I'll do the same problem with flaps 20 using estimated speeds because the book only lists stall speeds for flaps 0,10,30. Estimated Vs flaps 20 is 38ish (your stall speed just went up 10%). 38*1.3=50. Vref is 58 which likely ends up being 60. So margin to stall speed is 22.

    You are correct. The margin to stall speed did improve 10%. So perhaps this becomes a question of technique not procedure. Where you may be willing to make the trade off to achieve that margin, I might not. I would reason that higher stall speeds are not beneficial, you might argue that higher margin to stall is outweighs the slower stall speed. One could achieve both by flying at Vref + 2.

     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2021
  27. Arnold

    Arnold Cleared for Takeoff

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    I think that is correct. I don't use flaps 40 on normal fields because I find it uncomfortable, the drag reduces float so much that things happen quickly during the round out and flare (and if it's the end of a long day of flying it may be too quick) and as you mentioned, rudder effectiveness suffers.

    What I didn't explicitly say above is that flight characteristics must be taken into account. What works for most aircraft might not work for what you are flying.

    I also agree with the video that rudder control is the real issue and is one of the reasons I calculate Vref as 1.3Vso + (1/3 steady state wind or 1/2 gust factor whichever is higher). Example 1: Vso=42 then Vref=55 winds 6 G 15, bump = 7.5 (really if I'm being honest its closer to 10 'cause I can't fly 0.5 KIAS precision). Example 2: Vso=55 winds 15 G 20, bump is 5. In many aircraft this is sufficient to keep the rudder effective with full flaps. But when you have aircraft that run out of rudder at Vref like Cessnas with 40 flaps AND the wind is across the runway (note how direction plays no role is calculating Vref) then the ship has a flight characteristic that changes the analysis. In that case flaps 30 is where I would be irrespective of my other reasons for avoiding flaps 40.
     
  28. Country Flier

    Country Flier Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Fly in crosswinds more often.

    Its really that simple. Very few people can handle a difficult task their first time, but with practice it becomes easier. I had the same problem when I was a new pilot, and I would break out in a cold sweat if there was more than a 5 knot crosswind. I decided I wanted to get good at crosswinds, so I started seeking them out. At first, I would pick 5 or 10 knots direct crosswind on non-gusty days, and grass runways (the grass is more forgiving on a sideways landing). Eventually 10 knots became easy, so I upped it to 15, then 20. I started this crosswind practice 20 years ago. I'm proud to say I landed the other day with a 90 degree direct crosswind of 20+ gust to 35+ and moderate turbulence...not fun, but it wasn't impossible.

    Oh, and to answer your question, I don't use flaps on the really windy days.
     
  29. Arnold

    Arnold Cleared for Takeoff

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    One last thought and I'll get off my soap box. So long as the airplane is not truly Vfe limited, there is no reason you can't fly faster than Vso*1.3 with flaps full extended. It's the airspeed that effects rudder effectiveness not (generally) the flap setting. And my whole discussion ignores the fundamental reason we are having this discussion. Power. I tell my lady friend that there is almost no problem in aviation that can't be solved with more power. You can always go around. If the runway is long enough you can also add power and start over from there. You can (nearly) always land at an airport with more suitable winds. In the immortal words of a now deceased friend of mine, the most important safety item in the cockpit is a credit card. Almost anything can be fixed if you are not worried about money.
     
  30. Brad Z

    Brad Z Final Approach

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    This is an incredibly common problem, and one that often doesn't seem to be well corrected by instructors. We talk about flying the plane all the time at to the hangar (or tie down) but it seems counter-intuitive to try to bank the aircraft more as you get to the runway, particularly for fear of scraping as you mentioned.

    As you get more experienced, you'll figure out the art of combining crabbing and banking to deal with momentary gusts and working your way to touchdown on the centerline, aligning with the runway and avoiding side-loading the landing gear. In strong gusts over the numbers, I'll yaw into the wind and level up the wings, ride it out for a bit and then as I feel the cross gust subside I'll start to roll back into the wind and yaw away from the wind for alignment. This cross-controlled flight condition (it's a slip, after all) increases drag, reduces lift, and helps the plane settle down.

    At any point if I'm not satisfied that I'm going to touchdown in a reasonable distance (typically within the first third of the runway), I'm ready for a go-around and another attempt. Don't rush it, don't force it, embrace the challenge. It feels great when you ace a crosswind landing in a good breeze.
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2021
  31. Gatorj31

    Gatorj31 Filing Flight Plan

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    One more question that confuses me about using rudder to align the nose. At what point do you let off the rudder? It seems like the plane would dart in the direction of rudder input on touchdown. Or is that not how it works?
     
  32. Salty

    Salty Final Approach

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    When close to the runway, you should be using your rudder to keep the plane straight down the runway. The ailerons will keep you from drifting left or right. So, for a wind from the right, when you are crabbed, the plane will be pointing to the right to keep you aligned, to change from crab to slip before landing, you push the left rudder to line up the nose, which will result in you drifting to the left, so you also put in right aileron to counter that drift. So, primary is rudder for alignment, secondary is aileron to counter drift. You will land on one wheel this way as your right wing will be low. That's what you want. It's more important that the wheel is aligned with the runway. The other will touch down soon after - also aligned with the runway.
     
  33. Salty

    Salty Final Approach

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    After re-reading, I think I misunderstood your question. Once both mains are down, if you are still using rudder to align with the runway, you'll have already taken out most of the rudder correction. Once touching the ground, the wind effects are a lower. If you just focus on using rudder to maintain alignment, adjusting to any gust or wheels getting traction, you'll be good.
     
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  34. PaulS

    PaulS Touchdown! Greaser!

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    You are over thinking it. Use the rudder to keep the nose aligned, if it starts to become unaligned, adjust the rudder appropriately, if it stays aligned, you have the correct amount of rudder for that moment. On a lively day you will constantly be making adjustments. If you try to think about it as you do it you will fall behind.
     
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  35. Arnold

    Arnold Cleared for Takeoff

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    Assuming you are properly landing on the main gear the short answer is you don't. As your airspeed decreases the downwind wheel will settle. You'll still use rudder to keep the nose straight. As you continue to slow the nosewheel will settle and at that point the you will be continue to use rudder to direct the aircraft straight. At the point the nose wheel is firmly settled you will generally be working the ailerons to keep the aircraft level.

    At this point you are NOT in a hurry. You don't need to make the first turn-off. Don't let the aircraft behind you pressure you into vacating the runway. When you are slowed to taxi speed
    you can consider your exit. If a controller asks you to expedite because the ship behind is too close say "unable." If its an uncontrolled field just do your thing without talking.

    Two last thoughts. A) Don't be afraid to work the controls. They have full deflection available so you can use full deflection. If you are below Va you can't hurt the airplane by controlling it. Not controlling it is a much bigger problem. 2) Power, power, power. Just because you are at idle doesn't mean you need to stay there. It is there for a reason. Add it if you think you need it.
     
  36. Brad Z

    Brad Z Final Approach

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    Remember, the rudder won't steer the airplane on the runway until weight is on the nose gear.

    Weight shouldn't be on the nose gear until weight is on both upwind and downwind main gear.

    As you settle onto the main gear, you'll gradually start increasing upwind aileron and neutralizing rudder, while increasing elevator back pressure.

    Eventually the elevator will come back full stop to your lap, slowing you down. Full aft, the elevator will eventually loose lift and the nose will settle down. By that point, your rudder pedals will be neutral and ready to steer the nosegear. Your ailerons will be doing all of the work of counteracting the crosswind. During that period where you're rolling on the mains and slowing down to the point of the putting weight on the nose gear, you're well below stall speed and transitioning to full upwind deflection on the aileron. If that much aileron causes the plane to want to bank, then you're still flying and not quite ready to settle on the nose gear.
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2021
  37. RyanShort1

    RyanShort1 En-Route

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    Betcha your instructor isn't a tailwheel pilot.
     
  38. chemgeek

    chemgeek Pattern Altitude

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    I made a lot of go-arounds at strange airports in my first couple hundred hours. It happens. When things aren't working out, ditch your pride and go around. The other part of the equation is practice. 10-15 kt crosswinds should not be an emergency or a major concern. Ask your instructor to take you up on a windy, gusty, crosswindy day and get a good workout. Wash, rinse, repeat until you are confident in your ability to land in gusty crosswind conditions. Landings in these conditions don't have to be pretty, but they do have to be routinely safe. Exposure, practice, and mastery will build confidence needed to deal with unexpected wind conditions. My primary instructor years ago wore me out every gusty crosswind day. In high wings and low wings. Bless his heart: I don't worry about crosswinds anymore.
     
  39. Dan Thomas

    Dan Thomas Final Approach

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    Right after touchdown those wings are still lifting and traction is minimal, yet so many pilots think the flight's over. It's not, hence the sage advice to fly the thing until it's tied down.

    The crosswind's effects are worse as the speed decays. Just try landing in a 15-kt crosswind in a Champ and find out about that. It's because the relative wind vector increases as the airspeed falls. If you have a 20-kt direct crosswind and you touch down at 50 kts, the relative wind is 22° off the nose. As you decelerate to 30 kts, that angle is now 34°. At 20 Kts it's 45°. A lot of pilots have relaxed by that time, they neutralize the ailerons, get lazy feet, and things happen. In the old Champ you run out of rudder, and if it's old enough to have the oleo main gear, that wind is lifting the upwind wing and you're running out of rudder and aileron and the airplane could easily be wrecked if you're not paying attention. It happens way too often.
     
  40. Daleandee

    Daleandee Cleared for Takeoff

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    I agree. When I was flying them two strokes there were a few landings that were made after the engine clocked out early but the wheels were still waiting to go to work ...