A Family Adventure

Tyson, Emilie & Isaac

Cross winds, gusts, and wind sheer

April 12, 2013
Emilie Phillips

This past weekend, I did my hardest flying in the RV yet. The forecast was for calm in the morning leading to increasingly strong winds in the afternoon. There were a number of us at the airport who departed early to try to take advantage of the better forecast for the morning. Unfortunately, the winds arrived early too.

Tyson and I flew over to Jaffrey. The ASOS was reporting 9kts from the south, and occasionally gusting to 15kts. Tyson was flying from the front, and his approach was such that I wondered if we would need a go around. We ended up landing OK. After stopping to chat and drop some stuff off, we swapped seats.

The original plan had been for me to practice landings at Jaffrey in the calm wind since I had not yet successfully landed on runway 16. With the way Tyson’s first landing went, we briefly debated having him practice a few more landings and then the two of us work on Jaffrey landings. Given the increasing wind forecast, we decided to skip that and just go to Orange with longer runways, multiple runway directions, and grass runways.

Off we went. I mechanically held the right wing low into the cross wind and took off. It went kind of OK; definitely windy. Once we were up at pattern altitude, Tyson suggested we try one approach to runway 16 before heading to Orange since that direction keeps stumping me. In the gusty winds, I had to try extra hard to not get too slow, but with the downhill runway, I also had to not come in with too much speed. I have consistently found precise speed and attitude control hard. I ended up doing passably on speed and cross wind correction, but I still miss estimated the height of the runway and needed to abort the landing.

Tyson thought I did well enough that it was worth a second try. Given the old adage about doing the same thing twice and expecting different results, I decided to try a different technique for gauging height off the runway. My primary instructors had taught me to scan up and down the runway. The scan helps your brain compute a full 3 dimensional model of the runway. Since that was not working, I tried instead looking at the horizon which had been suggested to me a week or so prior. That worked. The landing was intense trying to deal with cross winds, gusts, and the difficult picture, but I managed it.

So we went and tried again. I can’t recollect a play by play of the landings, but they all had similar features. On the approach, I was concentrating really hard on maintaining airspeed without looking at the dial and chasing it. In those conditions, chasing the airspeed indicator would have resulted in a phase lagged loop on the gusts rather than a steady approach. Come landing, I was focusing both on not attempting to land 6 feet in the air, and on getting the cross wind correction right. I had not done any cross wind practice with this airplane. In any airplane, I find correcting for cross wind right at touch down when I am flaring hard. This is not helped by my primary airport having a good solid wind screen beside the runway. I just don’t get many chances to practice. The net result of all that was that I could not “feel” the proper cross wind correction, so I was just sort of mechanistically doing what you are supposed to do. Somehow it worked out.

Then it was off for the next take off. Again the cross winds were my biggest problem. I ended up taking off a little bit early because I was not handling both flying the airplane through the air and trying to keep the wheels straight on the ground. Then in the climb out, I attempted to do a few deep breaths and relax while being bumped around and running through the check list. And then I was back to the landing again.

We did three landings total before I was toast. All told, it was quite a challenge. But I did it. Maybe next time landing at Jaffrey without wind will be easy.