Finally, we write something worthy of our blog’s name.
Pilots stumble on our blog when Googling “Secret Formula for Landing Safely in Killer Crosswinds.”
Instead, they find piddling procedures like flying into volcanoes, rolling airplanes upside down or jousting with Level 3 thunderstorms. Boring.
Crosswinds terrified me to high heavens in my student pilot days. Home bound on my cross-country training flights, I would send text messages (yes, I use cell phones in airplanes, don’t get me started on that airline b.s.) asking Gino or Carlo what the winds were like at Omni.
“Dad, the windsock is pointed at Mt. Pinatubo and standing straight out.”
I couldn’t stay airborne waiting for the winds over the runway to calm down. On minimum fuel (I got pathetically lost on some cross-country training flights), I had to land.
“Dad, the wind just uprooted trees, the hangar was blown away, locusts are consuming the land and Mt. Pinatubo is erupting.”
All the text messages did was to make me squirm with anxiety in the cockpit.
Omni’s runway is oriented northeast-southwest.
October to February, the cold, dry, steady amihan — northeast trade winds — align perfectly with runway 02. April to August, the tempestuous habagat hauls moisture in from the southwest, aligned with runway 20.
In the confused months of March and September, between monsoons, the fitful wind wanders irritably across the runway.
Pilots love winds aligned with the runway — the airplane doesn’t drift away sideways, and the headwind helps it float slowly and softly down to the runway.
Crosswinds are pesky. They push the airplane sideways off the runway, lifting one wing, trying to overturn the impudent pilot and his clumsy machine.
The first technique, rookie but simple, is to point the airplane a bit into the wind to offset drift, and fly at an angle to the runway. Since landing sideways blows tires, the pilot aligns the airplane with the runway just moments before touching down.
When I first flew with my Mom in the right seat, we approached runway 13 at Manila in a vicious crosswind from the left. I angled the airplane to the left, the runway bobbing truantly out my right window.
Sighting on the runway out the right side window, I could see my Mom out of the corner of my eye. She curiously glanced at me, then at the runway, then at me.
It’s okay, I told her. Approaching sideways is standard procedure for crosswind landing. I tried to sound experienced.
Mom pointed at a DC-9 rolling out on the runway ahead. “That didn’t go sideways,” she pointed out.
Sigh. A jet weighing over 20 times my Cessna doesn’t get pushed around by crosswinds. I concentrated on straightening out at the last moment to align with the runway. We touched down gently.
Triumphant, I asked my Mom what she thought of that landing!
She told me I needed a haircut. My hair was too long.
Posted from Kuala Lumpur, August 11, 2009.