Flight log

Hour 30: Dual training on Runway 24 with strong crosswind

I'm back at Camden for training two long weeks after my last (fourth) solo. Yesterday, as I was looking at the weather forecast, I expected the conditions to be both windy and rainy, and most likely for both my scheduled flights to be canceled. But, I was lucky. Visibility in the morning was perfect. The wind was a problem, however. The strong southerly wind meant that I would not be able to go solo today. However, I had an excellent opportunity to practice approaches and take-offs in strong crosswind.  

Review for Hour 30.

Crosswind challenges

One of the significant challenges pilots face is dealing with strong crosswinds. These winds blow across the direction of the runway, making it difficult to maintain a straight path during take-off and landing.

The primary challenge is maintaining control of the aircraft. Crosswinds can push the plane off its intended path, requiring pilots to use a combination of aileron and rudder inputs to counteract the wind. This technique, known as "crosswind correction," involves angling the aircraft into the wind while keeping the fuselage aligned with the runway.

Strong crosswinds can also increase the distance required to safely land the aircraft. Pilots may need to approach the runway at a higher speed to maintain control, which in turn requires more runway to come to a complete stop.

During take-off and landing, there's a risk of the aircraft drifting sideways due to the crosswind. This drift can lead to runway excursions, where the plane leaves the paved surface of the runway, potentially causing damage to the aircraft and risking the safety of those on board.

Pilots must be ready to make quick decisions, including the possibility of aborting a landing (known as a "go-around") if the crosswind conditions exceed the aircraft's limitations or the pilot's comfort level. This decision-making process is critical for ensuring safety.

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Engine power loss at downwind emergency with strong crosswind

I experienced all of these difficulties today, however each time I was able to land or touch-and-go safely. However, one challenge that I was not able to deal with correctly was landing the plane in a simulated engine power loss.

I failed to land in both simulated emergencies.

The first time, I was too low, running the risk of crushing into trees. I ended up low because I did not turn towards the runway as soon as power loss occurred. This wasted precious time.

The second time, I was too high. Although I turned towards the runway quickly, I did not deploy flaps correctly.

The strong crosswind as I turned the plane towards the runway severely changed the sink rate compared to the ground speed. Practically, this means (for me) that I was unable to correctly assess how quickly the plane lost altitude as it was approaching the runway because of the strong headwind that was acting against it.

Landing a plane after an engine power loss becomes particularly complex when facing a strong headwind. While headwinds can aid in reducing ground speed during landing, they introduce several other challenges in a power-off situation.

A strong headwind increases the aircraft's angle of descent towards the runway. Without engine power to adjust the glide path, the pilot must carefully manage pitch and airspeed to avoid an excessively steep approach that could lead to a hard landing.

Maintaining the correct airspeed is crucial, especially in a headwind. The pilot must ensure the aircraft is not too slow to avoid stalling, or too fast, which could lead to overshooting the intended touchdown point. The headwind can cause rapid changes in airspeed, requiring constant adjustments.

Strong headwinds can be accompanied by gusts or varying wind speeds, making the approach unstable. Pilots must be adept at compensating for these changes to maintain a stable glide path and airspeed.

With the engine out, the pilot has one chance to make the landing. The strong headwind requires precise timing in deploying flaps, if available, and in executing the flare maneuver to land as softly as possible. Misjudging the flare in a headwind can result in a hard landing or bouncing.

In a power-off landing with a strong headwind, the pilot faces the challenges of managing a steeper approach, maintaining proper airspeed amidst fluctuating winds, and executing precise control inputs for a safe touchdown, all while considering the available runway length. These factors demand high levels of skill and concentration to ensure a successful landing.

Weather

Here's what BOM shows for the weather of ...:

For the beginning of Hour 30 flight, ATIS reported this:

Information Alpha: Runway 24, Wind 190° 8 kt, Crosswind maximum 8kt, CAVOK, QNH 1020, Temperature 19°C

Around half-way through the circuits, information Bravo was broadcasted by ATC:

Information Bravo: Runway 24, Wind 190° 12 kt, Crosswind maximum 12kt, CAVOK, QNH 1021, Temperature 24°C

The wind and crosswind had increased considerably. This was an excellent opportunity to practice approaches in strong crosswind.

Today's flight

Today's flight was entirely dual, using Runway 24. I have only used runway 24 twice in the past, so I was eager to practice more on it.

As I already mentioned, the main environmental factor today was the strong crosswind. Half way through my circuits, the wind was reported as 190°, 12 kt. In fact, the windsock showed that the wind was variable, sometimes completely perpendicular to the runway at around 150°, or completely headwind at 240°.

I have never experienced this level of wind variation. These conditions really got me paying attention to the windsock at each approach, adjusting my flying accordingly.

Of course, both take-off and approaches were affected.

At take-off, Greg explained the correct use of ailerons to counter act the forces of the crosswind on the plan. The technique entails turning full ailerons into the direction of the wind, and as the airspeed increases, to neutralise (i.e. to straighten the control column so that the ailerons are neutral).

After take off, I had to continue to use ailerons and rudder to keep the plane on the extended centerline. Without this, the plane would drift off the runway, blown away by the crosswind.

Let's look at this flight from the start.

After settling into the cockpit, I decided not to skip the passenger briefing, and made attempt to brief my imaginary passengers.

I continued with the checklists. At the runupbay, Greg showed me how to position the plane into the wind to make it safer to stop there. In previous flights, the wind was weaker, but in today's stronger wind conditions it was more important to get this right.

After completing the runup checklist, I taxied to holding point Echo, received clearance to take-off, and entererd the runway. As I moved the plane on the centerline, I did a full deflection in-out-left-right of the control column. This way I can do a final check that the control surfaces are free and correct before becoming airborne. There have been several crashes involving planes that had correct control surfaces at the runup bay, only for a foreign object to become lodged in a hinge making an aileron or a rudder stuck.

Being behind the plane

In the first circuit I was failry slow and "behind the plane". There were three reasons for this: 

1. I was rusty from the two weeks of not having flown.

2. The strong crosswind increased my workload. I needed to work harder to keep the plane on the extended centerline of the runway on upwind.

3. The strong crosswind accelerated the plane to a faster ground speed on the crosswind leg of the circuit. This meant that I had to be ready to make the downwind right turn much sooner than what I was used to.

4. The higher QNH improved performance and the plane climded much faster than in all of my previous flights this summer.

As you can see in the Flightradar24 flight path, my crosswind legs were almost always an arc, not a straight line. This is because I did not have enough time to level the wings. The crosswind pushed me quickly along the crosswind leg.

The exact opposite happend on the base leg. When flying on base, I had a strong headwind. This slowed the plane down, taking longer to reach the turning point to final. In the Flightradar24 path, you can see nice straight lines

Another impact of the strong crosswind is on downwind. The wind from the right pushed me to the left. I was able to maintain correct heading and spacing with the runway by using the right wing strut against the runway (the runway cuts through the strut around the middle).

In the very last circuit, you can see that the plane tracked wide. This happened becuse there was a twin-engine plane on downwind and I wanted to increase separation. Larger planes tend to fly wider circuits because they have more energy to expend. So maintain my separation from this plane, I reduced RPMs to reduce the airspeed. 

There was also a pelican flying close to us, that took some of my attention. As a result, I paid less attention to my spacing from the runway.

I suppose this is a trade-off that all pilots have to make. The finite amount of brain power and attention has to be directed to the most important aspects of flight: aviate safely. This means that I had to fly the plane (attitude, altitude, airspeed), and keep my distance from other flying objects (planes or birds). The spacing to the runway is not too important compared to nearby planes, birds and my own plane's status.

In this flight I trained on several normal approaches. In one of them, I landed with a 20° flap only (instead of the normal full flap approach). Greg suggested I do this due to the crosswind, of course.

I also trained on flapless, which was uneventfull (as I like it).

I also practices engine failure on upwind and crosswind, as well as engine failure on downwind which became a glide approach. I did two glide approaches, but was unable to achieve a safe landing, so we executed go-arounds. I will not go into the details here as I have already discussed the challenge of a glide approach in strong headwind. I had serious difficulty assessing my sink rate, causing me to either undershoot or overshoot the runway. In one case, I flew too close to trees near the top end of runway 24. I get goosbumps when I think about this.

Strong crosswind glide approaches is an area where I definately need more practice. 

What's coming up next?

The plan is for next week to do some more dual and solo circuits practice in the morning, and solo door-to-door flight in the miday flight. Of course, this relies on the weather on the day.

If the weather is not good enough for the plan, I also have the option to use the Altocap certified flight simulator, where I can practice basic instrument flying skills.

I have a huge favor to ask.

I have created a new channel on YouTube for Peter's Flight Log (PFL) to host my flight videos and share them with anyone interested in General Aviation (GA).

If you are interested in GA, I would be grateful if you would visit the Peter's Flight Log YouTube channel and subscribe. This will help the channel grow and find other people to find it.

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Full video of Hour 30 (coming soon).

Flight path from Flightradar24 for Hour 30.

I used Ozrunways to automatically capture and log Hour 30. This screenshot shows my flight path super-imposed on the VTC chart.

Glide approach to runway 24, in strong crosswind. This tree is too close for comfort.

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Hour 27: My second solo!
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