How much wind is too much?

StraightnLevel

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StraightnLevel
How much wind is acceptable for a training flight?

The reason I ask is that my instructor is pushing me to make the call on weather-related flights. I’m not sure that I have enough experience yet to know. Yesterday we went up with 10-15 knot gusting winds, and it was pretty bumpy - not a good use of the time. It was my call to fly anyway, and I did get some seat time. Now I know that 15 knots is more than I want to deal with for maneuvers and pattern practice, but that is just one data point. Today I canceled out on a 9-knot TAF….am I being a wimp, or exercising good judgment?

Where is the line? How much is too much, and what should I expect as just “normal” and plan to deal with it?
 
The line is what you say it is, given your experience & judgment today. It is called Aeronautical Decision Making. However, you should “stretch” those limits as you go forward. Tiny stretches when you’re alone, big stretches when you’re flying with a cfi.

Ground reference maneuvers have a purpose. That purpose is to demonstrate the effects of wind on ground track.
 
He's asking you to make the call...and you're asking SGOTI?

YOU make the call. You know 15 knots is too much. You feel 9 is too much. YOU made the call.

There ya go.
 
There is no hard line for this, unfortunately. One determining factor is knowing the demonstrated crosswind component of your aircraft and not flying when that is exceeded.

You are right to be both concerned and conservative when it comes to wind. The more experience you get, the more you will develop your own personal limits.

I think your instructor is right about letting you decide. There is no right or wrong.
 
You don't learn on the easy flights. You learn on the difficult flights.

That said, it's your dime, your call. Nothing wrong with being a wimp if that's what you want to be.
 
Depends on what type airplane and where you are in your training, I suppose. Forecasts aren't always right, and you won't always make the right call. If you fly in wind that is too far outside your comfort zone, you'll be too clenched up to learn. If you only fly in 5kt winds, not only will you not be flying much, but you will also be doing yourself a disservice by not flying in varying conditions.
 
As a CFI, I like to have the student involved in the weather-decision-making process from very early on. But that doesn't mean I necessarily want them to independently "make the call". I want to talk about it. You don't mention where you live or where you're at in training or what you're flying or if that was a 9-knot crosswind, which are important factors.

If this was something like a 172 and the wind was more or less down the runway, I probably wouldn't have let you "cancel" for a 9-knot wind. Rather, if you wanted to cancel, I'd counter with "let's use this opportunity to expand your wind experience". Because while 9 knots of wind may be a lot for you right now in your training, you must live in a very calm area. In many places 9 knots of wind is basically a calm day.

I don't necessarily agree with those above who say "it's your money, your call", "if you think it's too much, that's your decision", etc. I mean yes, I as a CFI can't force you to fly. And yes, that decision-making process is important for you to develop. But you do need to stretch your limits. We're not talking about 30 knots of crosswind here, we're talking about single digits. That's well within the expectations of a private pilot, and you need to learn how sometime, why not now?

A related story. I flew with a student one time who was worried about the clouds, the ceiling on one flight. He wanted to cancel. I told him it was no problem. So we went. We got about 10 miles away from the field and he asked to turn around, and please could I make the landing as he was worried about the clouds. So okay, we went back. The ceiling that day was 10,000 OVC. Our max altitude was going to be about 3000 AGL. Obviously the clouds were no problem, but for whatever reason he wasn't comfortable with them. Otherwise, it was a nice smooth day and we could have gotten in a lot of good practice. What I'm trying to say is that the student is not typically the best judge of what is and is not good weather conditions. So them being the sole decision maker is not the best way to advance their skill and experience.
 
I never liked those hard-and-fast numbers for decision making. Winds are different - direction, gusts, shear, turbulence, aircraft type, etc. I'd put your instructor to the test. Tell him the wind speed plus the direction and any of those other factors and how you've considered them all in your decision. After all, he's the instructor and can refuse the flight, but you'll learn more from that kind of interaction, instead of,
"9 knots is greater than 8 knots so I won't go."
 
If you’re not comfortable ,you are wasting time. The instructor realizes that and is saving you money. As you get more experience you will most likely set a higher limit on the wind,taking into consideration the cross wind component for the aircraft you are flying.
 
Yeah, I like the idea of exploring the limit so that when the time comes you will really know....
so in your case I think very often I'd be saying to your CFI ..."If I were solo (or PIC) right now, I'd not go today because x, BUT with you onboard I'd like to go for the experience."
 
You don't mention where you live or where you're at in training or what you're flying, which are important factors.
Good point.

I'm on the South side of Houston (KLVJ), just under 10 hours total time, flying a Cherokee.

If this was something like a 172 and the wind was more or less down the runway, I probably wouldn't have let you "cancel" for a 9-knot wind. Rather, if you wanted to cancel, I'd counter with "let's use this opportunity to expand your wind experience". Because while 9 knots of wind may be a lot for you right now in your training, you must live in a very calm area. In many places 9 knots of wind is basically a calm day.
[...] We're not talking about 30 knots of crosswind here, we're talking about single digits. That's well within the expectations of a private pilot, and you need to learn how sometime, why not now?
That's what I was looking for. Probably should have kept the session, just wasn't sure.
 
If you’re not comfortable ,you are wasting time. The instructor realizes that and is saving you money.
Perhaps. That said, I'm a lot more concerned about time than money. In general I'd rather have a difficult session where I don't get as much practice than waste an opportunity to be in the plane and get seat time...but only to a point, and I'm not sure I know where that point is yet.
 
If you fly in 15 knots and have a rough time of it, 10 knots is pleasant. If you avoid 15 knots, then 10 knots is still an issue.

Me? I'm flying unless it's really super gusty or high wind shear. But that's just me. I decided I want to fly a lot, and there are airports around me with runways pointing all different ways, so worst case, I land somewhere else. Never had to do it yet.
 
Once you are in the air, the airplane does not care what the wind is. If the crosswind component allows you to taxi, take off, and land safely, then no amount of wind is too much.

Turbulence is a different issue. You should get comfortable with mild and moderate bumps; those are part of flying. Wind speed and turbulence are not directly correlated. Clear air turbulence is driven by gusts, shear, and thermals, and is usually worse near the ground. If too bumpy, climbing a few K will usually smooth things out.

Back to crosswinds. Step one is calculating the crosswind component of wind speed. I assume you have that down. Step two is comparing that to aircraft performance data and your own personal skill level. Your aircraft will have a published maximum demonstrated crosswind component. Your limit as a student is probably somewhere below that, and will increase with practice. I generally consider anything in single digits to be negligible.
 
If the chain tie downs are broken and the plane is wadded up into a ball and against the far fence, it may be too windy to fly...

You are training to be pilot in command. Most of the time you will make the correct decision, sometimes you will make a incorrect decision. Whichever you make, you will worry over whether it was right or wrong. Make a decision and stick with it and move on.

There is not really a set line for winds. It is more of a comfort level. As your experience increases, it is Ok to push your limits.

One thing is most trainers are light airplanes, and they will bobble around in the wind like a cork on rough water. To me that made learning difficult. I was trying to learn the maneuvers and trying to control the plane in the bumps which frustrated me to no end. I ended up scheduling early morning flights until my confidence level went up.
 
If you fly in 15 knots and have a rough time of it, 10 knots is pleasant. If you avoid 15 knots, then 10 knots is still an issue.

Me? I'm flying unless it's really super gusty or high wind shear. But that's just me. I decided I want to fly a lot, and there are airports around me with runways pointing all different ways, so worst case, I land somewhere else. Never had to do it yet.
KLVJ is a single-strip airport, so most days we have a crosswind component that is unavoidable. Wind is generally worse at Galveston, and no way do I want to deal with KHOU.
 
Here is what I currently do as a PPL with about 500 hours and 400 PIC: I have strict minimums for flying without an instructor. I wouldn't call them super conservative but well within mine and the airplanes capabilities with some room to spare since forecasts rarely are what they are.

Here is what I did during training: I tried to fly in all sorts of conditions, from calm days to super rough days, low ceilings, cross winds, etc. with the instructor. I had VERY conservative limits for solo flight but almost none for flights with the instructor. If he was good to go, I was good to go. I just wanted to learn all sorts of scenarios in case I get caught in one in my future flights.

I still do this nowadays. If there is a day that is beyond my PIC limits but within my instructor's limits, I'd call him to see if he wants to get out for a flight with me. I would hate it to arrive at an airport that had acceptable crosswinds forecasted only to find out the crosswind is beyond my limit and this is the first time I'm landing in those conditions. My personal max crosswind limit is 10 kts. My plane can handle 17 kts. The other day, it was 15 kts. so I went for a flight with the instructor. Still landed the plane myself (wasn't pretty) but had the instructor seen anything way off, he could (and hopefully would) have intervened. I still didn't up my personal limits after that, but if a forecast is wrong and the crosswind is over 10 kts on arrival, at least it won't be my first time landing in those conditions with family on board.
 
Back to crosswinds. Step one is calculating the crosswind component of wind speed. I assume you have that down.
The math is easy. Getting it from Foreflight is easier.

If the chain tie downs are broken and the plane is wadded up into a ball and against the far fence, it may be too windy to fly...
Well, generally speaking.....LOL

I ended up scheduling early morning flights until my confidence level went up.
This morning is was 15-25 knots gusting (no, thank you). TAF says it will calm down this afternoon.....
 
I feel its very important to push your limits as you learn. You could theoretically get your certificate and never fly in anything more than slight winds. But what happens when the weatherman is wrong? You get to your destination and its a 15kt crosswind? Its all about technique when it comes to dealing with winds. It’s best to learn those techniques with a CFI during your primary training. Mostly in a cross wind, it all comes down to rudder. If you have enough ruder to keep the plane pointed down the runway your good. If you’re at full rudder and can’t maintain, well it’s time to go around and look at other options.
 
If the chain tie downs are broken and the plane is wadded up into a ball and against the far fence, it may be too windy to fly...
Or if the airport uses a length of chain in place of a windsock, and the chain is sticking straight-out...
One thing is most trainers are light airplanes, and they will bobble around in the wind like a cork on rough water. To me that made learning difficult. I was trying to learn the maneuvers and trying to control the plane in the bumps which frustrated me to no end. I ended up scheduling early morning flights until my confidence level went up.
Yup. When I was was doing my IFR training, we were using a 150. This was in the lee of the Rockies, in Calgary. The winds can be wild there, but even if they're relatively mild, the turbulence off the Rocks makes life difficult for a 150 trying to follow the ILS. I spent way too much time just trying to keep the shiny side up, and the needles would not cooperate. I switched to a 172 and the learning accelerated nicely. Who is going to do hard IFR in a 150 anyway? Especially in Canada, where IMC in an airplane not certified for known ice is illegal if ice is reported or forecast.
 
My answer is the same as in the other forum:

As already mentioned, your CFI is just having you work on your judgment. I can't speak for them, but with a student pilot, I'm looking for some real basics like, "I've only flown with you with a 6KT crosswind component; it's 10 today and I'm not sure how well I would handle that." I as the CFI, would ultimately make the go/no-go decision. Why? My main goal is that the student gets something out of it. That may mean keeping the status quo or it may mean it's time to push your comfort level.

When I was at KAPA with runways 17/35, the winds typically would be relatively light from the southeast in the morning moving clockwise until reaching it's highest strength from due west in the mid-afternoon and finally diminishing in the northeast in the evening. Newer student? Morning lessons. Just about ready for the checkride? Late afternoon.
 
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wind_sock.jpg

I never remembered cancelling because of the wind during training. I did count on my instructor to handle the really windy days and when I felt sick from turbulence. Sure wind used to worry me, I am sure it worries everyone at first. I gained the confidence after I got my PPL and learned/ gained confidence flying by myself. Lot's of hours and landings will do that for you. Good luck.
I have flown with my best bud who is a 26000 hr 41 year pilot in 23-25 knot X winds just for practice at our small 2800' airport in my 172. Helped me a bunch that day.
 
There are parts of the country, if you are not willing to fly in 10G15, you'll never fly.

Last month it was 10G20 on the ground varying between 30-45degrees off runway heading. No issue, lets go fly. Wind at 3K MSL was forecast to be about 25knts, 6K MSL forecast 50knts. Sure enough, the G1000 at 40knt wind and higher at 3500MSL, at 3K MSL it was about 30knt, at 2500 MSL it was about 20knt. The issue was the turbulence in the shear zone when the wind jumped up to 40knts. Stay below that and it was fine. Down in one valley airport, it was calm below the ridge lines.

You don't learn your personal limits, if you don't go out fly in the wind, with an instructor, to develop your skill.
 
There are parts of the country, if you are not willing to fly in 10G15, you'll never fly.

Agreed. My typical solo endorsement when I was doing primary instruction was "15 kt max sustained, 7 kt max gust". Which meant that 15G22 was flyable for solo. BUT, that was the typical training wind throughout all of their training anyway, so it was reasonable. I think my X-wind limit was 7 or 8, so not a lot, but again, that was generally what they were training in. Wind here is often right down the runway, so gusts to 25 knots are reasonable for flight training. Above that it starts to depend on what we're hoping to do that day. Steep turns and other high work? Sure. 8's on pylons and low stuff? Probably not.
 
My instructor and I took advantage of some of these windy, gusty days to work on crosswind landing techniques. This can build skill and confidence in dealing with weather conditions you may encounter later as a certificated pilot. While a 10G15 burbly crosswind is not all that much fun, it is something that one should learn to safely deal with. At my airport, if you can't deal with these conditions, you won't fly much in spring or fall.
 
Wow--in the time it took me to write the response below while drinking a pot of coffee and procrastinating about firing up the chainsaw to clear a tree that fell last night, 22 people posted thoughtful replies, all of which provide valuable perspective. Nonetheless, here's some additional redundant superfluousity for whatever little it may be worth.

How much wind is too much...?

As others have made clear, there is only one answer to that question: it depends. The "it depends" part is what your CFI is helping you to learn.

Viewed in terms of where you are (a student pilot with 10 hours logged): With 10 hours in your logbook a gusty 15 knot wind might interfere with the learning process, but it is also a learning experience in itself. You know more now than you did before that flight. But it's reasonable to want to master the basics without the added challenge and distraction of blustery weather, and fly in increasingly windy conditions as you become more comfortable and confident. Your CFI is giving you an opportunity to make the call because the call-making itself is an important part of the learning experience.

Viewed in terms of what you aspire to (your mission as envisioned in the thread "Which light planes are best for..."): 500 hours from now, gusty 15-knot winds and turbulent conditions will be routine as you fly on a regular basis from Wisconsin to Texas. You will encounter your share of those as well as other weather-related challenges, while flying a complex airplane, in instrument conditions, with no CFI sitting next to you. What you do during your PPL training will prepare you for that mission and the inherent challenges that you will face, with the goal of becoming competent to safely and comfortably undertake those flights. As you progress toward your PPL, challenge yourself while enjoying the benefits of having a CFI with you.

And don't forget to have fun.
 
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I would echo what most have said here, but I definitely side on the team that says get a little uncomfortable when you have a CFI with you. I somehow got through my primary PPL flight training with very little crosswind. Until my checkride, which has 10G15 nearly direct crosswinds. While I did understand the concepts well enough that I didn't fail, I never really got the feel for that much wind during training and the DPE clearly knew as it was the only thing he encouraged me to specifically get more instruction on. I would have benefitted from getting the "feeling" of what gusty crosswinds were on top of understanding how to manipulate the controls in a crosswind, and that's just something you have to experience in the seat.
 
I didn’t read the thread other than your OP. But I’ll say this, as long as your instructor is comfortable and you’re flying with him go in those super windy days. Get discouraged and second guess with him right there and I promise you will be waaay better for it.
 
My not so good instructors wouldn't fly when it was 'windy.'

My best instructor, in his late 70's, didn't care about wind. I learned more about landings on those windy days than I did with any of the previous instructors.

Use your instruction time to max out your skills, there will be a day when the forecast at your destination is incorrect and those skills you developed on windy days come in handy.
 
Can’t help it. One day my CFI instructor was giving a tailwheel lesson. We were at KAPA where the two main runways are 17/35 and there is a 10/28. The lesson was on 17. The winds were strong and gusting from the west.

Tower: would you like 28?
Pilot (in a wee voice after a long pause): My instructor wants me on 17.
 
If you don’t have enough rudder to keep the aircraft aligned with the centerline, it’s too windy. But then again, by the time you determine that, it’s too late.
Not necessarily. When the winds are that strong, I get into an early slip to see if I can hold alignment.
 
When I was a student, I noted a progression of how cancellations due to wind were done.

-Very early in my training, my instructor cancelled lessons if it was too windy.
-For most of my training, I (after consulting with my instructor) would cancel if it was too windy. There was less consultation, and fewer cancellations as I progressed.
-As my check ride approached, my instructor would again cancel lessons, telling me it wasn't windy enough to be worthwhile.
 
At this point you're learning judgement, but there are still a couple of firm numbers you should know and abide by:

1 - The max demonstrated crosswind capability of your plane. As a student you shouldn't be getting anywhere close to landing in those conditions, but as you gain experience that will become your stop.​
2 - Your plane's recommended approach speed. If the wind component straight down the runway exceeds approach speed, don't try to land. You'll just move farther and farther from the runway. (Though a skilled pilot might try backing the plane in....)​

I used to tell my engineers, "There's no growth in the comfort zone and no comfort in the growth zone." You should be growing in training, so stretch a bit while you have a CFI beside you to save your neck.
 
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