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Crosswind Correction: How To Maintain Control After You Touch Down On The Runway


Flying a crosswind landing doesn't stop when your wheels touch the ground. Here's how to maintain your crosswind correction as you slow down during roll out...

Crosswind Landing: Control Inputs After Touchdown

As your airplane flies, it moves with the air mass around it, regardless of the airplane's heading and speed. But "when the airplane is on the ground, it cannot move with the surrounding air mass (crosswind) because of the resistance created by ground friction on the wheels" (FAA).

Most airplanes have a greater surface area behind the landing gear than forward. This creates a pivot point around the main wheels when the greater surface area (the tail) is exposed to a crosswind. Because of this, your airplane has a tendency to weathervane into the wind.


Crosswind: The Combination Of Two Wind Components

You can think of crosswinds as two separate components of wind. The first is created by the air mass surrounding the airplane, or the wind speed and direction acting upon the airplane. The second component is created by the forward motion of the airplane and it acts parallel to the direction of aircraft movement.

"Every crosswind has a headwind component action along an airplane's ground track and a crosswind component acting 90 degrees to its track" (FAA). The resulting relative wind is located somewhere between these two components.

As you slow down during rollout, you have a decreasing headwind component, but the crosswind component remains the same (assuming steady winds). At the same time, your flight controls are less effective as you slow down.

That means you need larger control inputs to overcome the crosswind component, and to prevent weathervaning into the wind. "The greater the crosswind components, the more difficult it is to prevent weathervaning" (FAA).


Cornering Angle And Side-Loading

During a crosswind rollout, maintaining directional control is your primary concern, and weathervaning makes this challenging. Cornering angle is the difference between the heading of a tire and its path.

A side load is created any time the path of the tire and the heading diverge. Every tire experiences side loads differently, depending on tire construction and air pressure. Prolonged or strong side loads can damage your airplane or render it impossible to control. That's why we try to keep the longitudinal axis of the plane aligned with the runway centerline.

"As little as 10 degrees of cornering angle will create a side load equal to half the weight being supported by the tire. After 20 degrees, the side load does not increase with increasing cornering angle" (FAA).


To prevent side-loading and cornering angle, you need to increase rudder to maintain your plane's longitudinal axis with the runway, and increase aileron input to keep the wings level.

High wing, tricycle gear airplanes, like the Cessna 172, are especially susceptible. That's because there's a cornering angle at which roll-over is inevitable. The roll-over axis is determined by the line linking the nose and main wheels. The smaller the corning angle, the more ailerons and rudder you need to prevent roll-over.

Increase Aileron Input During Rollout

What about preventing the upwind wing from rising? As you slow down during rollout, there's less and less airflow around the ailerons, making them less effective. Remember how the relative wind is becoming more of a crosswind at the same time? Now that wind is creating a greater lifting force on the upwind wing.

As you slow to taxi speed, you should have full aileron deflection into the wind.


When it comes to crosswind landings, are there any special procedures or techniques you use in your airplane? Tell us in the comments below.

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