What's YOUR Best Tailwind Story ...


Final Approach
Mar 4, 2020
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Dale Andee
I had a 193-knot direct crosswind one time…I would’ve changed destination to take advantage of it, but the destination would’ve been D.C.
Coming back from Kona, HI to Los Angeles... 5 hour and 15-minute flight, was done in just about 3 and a half hours.... got home, and we had some wicked rainstorms for the next three days

Waking up after a propofol power nap.

Milk of Amnesia will do that all the time.
There was this one time I was flying a Cessna 150. Take-off and climb out was uneventful and once up to 7500MSL, the ground speed readout on the GPS was only a little bit less than the 95KTAS that I had calculated. My heading was a couple degrees right of track, so I figured there was a bit of crosswind. But then I cleared a ridge and suddenly I start to balloon a bit, so I assertively but smoothly push the nose down. After I got things trimmed out and the airplane settled its pitch attitude, I glanced at the ground speed and couldn't believe my eyes. 297KTS! About a half hour later, ATC calls me up "Cessna 123, traffic 12 o'clock, same direction, 1000ft above, an Aerostar". I figure they probably have a decent autopilot so as long as I can hold altitude it should be no factor. Sure enough, I spy their strobes and see them whiz right over my windscreen as if they were standing still. Checking the fuel gauges against the tach hours, I figured I had more than enough to skip my 2 planned fuel stops, plus the flight has been smooth as butter so fatigue is not a factor at all. After a couple of hours, I start my descent and the push gradually subsides. I let out a sigh of relief that with this much wind on the tail, there wasn't any shear. Three miles out, tower clears me #1 straight in. Except for the briefest chirp of the stall horn there was absolutely no sensation of a touchdown, a total greaser. As the nose wheel gradually meets the pavement, I could feel the paint stripes of the centerline rolling under it. And with that, I was also able to make the first turnout.

Well, you asked me for my best tailwind story. You didn't say it had to be true...
I had a time that I used a headwind and slow flight to attain a negative ground airspeed.

And I got the Arrow up to ground speed 200mph with a tailwind before too.
I bought my 182 in Florida and headed north. The 496 said my ground speed was 193 knots and I pulled out the poh to see if I had misread/misremembered it.

Of course I soon figured out that I was being chased by a thunderstorm and needed to land asap.

Since then (15 years!) I’ve had a tailwind a handful of times, whether I needed it or not
I was flying a 172RG from Portand to Palo Alto IFR, with plans to refuel at Arcata, CA. It was IMC almost all of the way. When I checked on in the sector that handles approaches to Arcata, I heard an airliner make two missed approaches at Arcata and then divert to Crescent City. Although I normally would have enjoyed flying the approach and the miss, with all that hand-flying in IMC, I decided not to wear myself out, so I decided to divert while I was still at cruise altitude. I had been experiencing a strong tailwind, so I changed my alternate to Santa Rosa. After a while, it became clear that I could go non-stop all the way to Palo Alto with a comfortable reserve. I ended up landing at Palo Alto with about 1.5 hours in the tank.

I don't expect that to ever happen again.
I had a time that I used a headwind and slow flight to attain a negative ground airspeed.

Years ago when Fantasy Of Flight would demo their Storch the pilots loved to do that trick. The plane stalls around 25 knots, so if they had a 30kt headwind they could do neat tricks. Point it into the wind and start reducing the airspeed until the plane was stationary, just hovering over the field. Reduce a bit more and go backwards.

Those planes must have made great observation aircraft in WWII. I believe Rommel used one to watch the progress of battles.
I've seen 210 kts in the Comanche, just over a 50 kt tailwind. Sadly I had to make the return trip the same day. Came home the 300 miles at 1,000 AGL to dodge the headwinds as much as possible.
I seem to have headwinds both ways a lot more often than tailwinds one way.
Mathematically, it actually is true that headwinds are more common than tailwinds. A wind that is only a "tailwind" by about 5 degrees or less (or more if it's strong enough) actually has the same effect as a headwind due to the need to crab into it to hold your course.

So on a course of 360, any wind from a heading of 265 to 095 will lower your groundspeed.

Which means there are about 190 degrees of headwinds compared to about 170 degrees of tailwinds.

So there is a 47.2% chance of getting a tailwind. Coincidentally that's almost exactly the same odds of winning in roulette by betting on Red (or Black if you prefer). At least I think that it's a coincidence.
Let's see... KSEE to KSAC, about 430 NM +/-, made it in two and a half hours.
Saw a 158 kts ground speed in my Warrior racing for Ogallala, NE pushed by a thunderstorm behind. Decided to land a bit sooner at Grant, NE instead.
I took a 172 somewhere, about 75 miles away. With a 75kt headwind the whole way it seemed like it took forever. But the return flight was fun. I remembered climbing to my cruise altitude and seeing a lake in front of me. Something didn’t seem right. The lake looked familiar, but was in the wrong place. It took me a moment to realize the lake really was the one right next to my home airport. I had gotten to it way more quickly than I ever expected.
Well, you asked me for my best tailwind story. You didn't say it had to be true...
Hook, line and sinker!

My (non-fabricated) story is NW of NYC, just outside of the Class B, heading NE with an IAS of 105kts and a GS of 155kts at 3500ft.
The trip back was absolutely miserable, decided to go down the Hudson to be lower so I had to deal with "only" a 25-30kt headwind.
Then of course there is this oldie but goodie...

Well, there was the time when I was a kid standing on a bridge with a strong wind blowing and I needed to relieve myself...and I was not too sure which way to point...
Was on the red eye from KLAX to KIAD on United, back when you could listen to the radios.

I forget how much tailwing we had, but they reported pulling back to 0.73 MACH and we still arrived over 45 minutes early.
I seem to have headwinds both ways a lot more often than tailwinds one way.
There's a reason for that. If you have a crosswind, you have to crab into the wind, making it a partial headwind. So, depending on your airspeed and the speed of the wind, my guess is at least 240° of the compass rose requires you to have a headwind. So you have to get lucky for your wind to be from the other 120°.
I don't remember the highest groundspeed I've achieved in my C182, but certainly my most fun tailwind story is when I dropped my husband off in Oregon to pick up the Corvette I bought him and I beat him home by a much larger margin than anticipated because I had a groundspeed of 154 kts. Of course, I was going to beat him by quite a bit anyway because the road route is very indirect compared to the air route, but still..... Any time he brags about his fast car, I merely say "ahem", and he stops and looks sheepish. (Actually I made that last part up--he doesn't brag.)