Most pilots agree that crosswind landings are the most common challenging landings they have to make. This should come as no surprise to pilots, since landing straight into the wind is as easy as pie. Landing in a crosswind, with the need to maintain directional control of the airplane without overcontrolling, and then make the transition to ground operations as the plane touches down can be a real challenge.
Dick, our (in)famous bumbling pilot, has a lot of crosswind experience and if you have followed his tales, you know that not all of it is good. He has taken off from taxiways when the crosswind was too stiff for his high performance single, and has had a few “bounce-in” landings in his various planes. Still, no landing was so memorable as the one he made at a local airport with a stiff crosswind. It is memorable because it is one of the only times Dick has had his actions actually damage his airplane.
In this case, Dick was lined up for Runway 27 at an airport south of his hometown. This airport was a real treat to fly in to, since it had the narrowest runways in the entire state of Illinois. The width of Runway 27 was a mere 18 feet, and that, combined with a length of 2400 feet, made it a real brick-passer for most pilots. The 18/36 Runway at the airport was even less inviting, with an 1800-foot length of turf. With the recent rains, 18/36 was not in use, which meant planes were landing on Runway 27. Dick of course was not impressed with this challenge or the strong crosswinds he would have to negotiate to land, and having made arrangements to meet some friends, arrived on schedule.
He lined up in his standard traffic pattern, dropped partial flaps, and brought the plane in hanging on the prop. Once on the ground, he quickly reduced power, and retracted the flaps. Everything in the landing looked like another win for Dick, since he had done the hardest part — landing in a crosswind. With the remainder of his energy, he made his way toward his friends, waiting at the end of the taxiway.
RESPECT IS SOMETHING THAT IS EARNED, and the crosswinds wanted some R-E-S-P-E-C-T from Dick. As he neared the last few feet of the runway on the back-taxi, the winds suddenly gusted. DICK KIND OF FORGOT THE WINDS, AND HAD RELEASED ALL HIS CONTROL PRESSURES. The crosswinds noted this lack of respect, and picked up the right wing of the plane, driving the left wing and the nose of the plane into the ground.
Note: The flight isn’t over until the aircraft is parked and tied down.
WAP WAP WAP CRUNCH! Various parts of the plane came into contact with the ground. The wing tip was a loss, and the prop looked really, really funny — provided it wasn’t yours. The engine had taken a sudden stop, and the plans to take friends for a plane ride had gone firmly into the ditch along with the left wing of Dick’s faithful Cessna.
WHAT WENT WRONG — Dick forgot to move his controls to neutralize the crosswind as he taxied. In fact, Dick had released all his control pressures, and was taxiing as if there wasn’t any crosswind at all. While the weather can be a royal pain, the fact of the matter is that Dick got lazy, and the winds happen to come up in the right combination to slap him hard on the face, to remind him that he should always work to neutralize the wind.
THE BOTTOM LINE – DICK BLINKED, AND GOT SPANKED FOR DOING IT. The repairs to the plane, while not particularly extensive, were fairly expensive. The plane was down for a number of days, and since he broke it away from his home airport, the fix also incurred the cost of a flight for his mechanic to come fix the plane. Once the aircraft was made right, Dick was again in the sky … and making life more interesting for other pilots.
DON’T BE LIKE DICK. When you are on the ground, stay vigilant — use your controls to counter the wind. When you turn on the ground in strong winds, remember to change your control configuration to keep countering the winds. Some say that Mother Nature is a witch and I can’t disagree. It is up to us as pilots to make sure that her treacherous breath doesn’t take us in directions we didn’t intend to ever go!