Crosswind landings

The forecast for this morning was not looking so good. I sort of expected when I went to sleep last night that I wouldn’t be flying. However, when I woke up at 6:30 there was hardly a cloud in the sky and it looked like it hadn’t rained at all. I checked the weather and except for some mist and fog that was quickly going away, it looked good. It was, however, supposed to get more windy as the day went on, so had it been an afternoon flight, I probably would not have gone.

Gene and I decided to make use of the crosswinds we had and stick to the pattern today. The wind was from slightly west of directly north at 11 knots, gusting to 17. That meant we’d have to deal with the potential of a sudden change in wind speed. It also meant a solid 7 knot crosswind component; not an insignificant number in that tiny plane.

I found at the start of preflight that the plane didn’t have much fuel. Gene had taken it on a cross country the night before and the fuel guys were long gone when they got back. We called for fuel, but they were busy filling up a private jet, so we had to wait a little. The little wait turned into nearly an hour. We stood outside and talked as Gene cleaned bugs off the windshield, propeller and cowl. We didn’t get going until after 9:15 (my lesson was from 8-10). No one had the plane after us, and we weren’t leaving the pattern, so it was enough time to make it worthwhile.

To add to our wait, there were a couple planes landing that we had to wait for. We finally took off on runway 3 paying special attention to the ailerons to deal with the crosswind. Full deflection into the wind and gradually leveling out as we pick up speed will keep the wind from blowing the plane over. On climbout, we needed about a 10° crab angle (heading 20° instead of 30°) to maintain the extended centerline.

The ride around the pattern was challenging. The air was not smooth at all; by far the worst turbulence I’ve flown in. It did not, however, bother me as much as I thought it would. I don’t mean bother me as in “I’m going to get sick”… I’ve yet to feel sick, but bother me as in “I can’t control this thing”. I did a pretty decent job at keeping the plane going where I wanted it to go.

Gene wanted me to work on no-flap landings. They might be necessary in case the flaps aren’t working due to electrical failure or for whatever other reason. It wasn’t much different other than a slightly higher base leg speed and the need for a slighly lower power setting. The roundout and flare last a little longer, but otherwise it’s the same.

I amazed even myself today. I was prepared to go around if I couldn’t get the nose lined up and everything looking good, but not a single one of my five landings of the day required a go around. Despite the variable high winds, I was able to keep the plane lined up, landing on the left main gear (the upwind gear) first in most cases, and settling down as smoothly as one can given the conditions. I did three no-flap landings and two “normal” landings.

My final landing of the day earned a “Wow! It doesn’t get any better than that” comment from Gene. That was a really nice thing to hear, especially with a 7-knot crosswind and gusting wind.

We only flew for 0.7 hours, but it felt like a lot longer. Five more landings brings me to 30 over the last four weeks. I remember not too long ago wondering when I was going to get to land, now it seems that’s all I’m doing. No complaints, though. At 21.3 hours, I’m feeling much better about them than just a couple lessons ago.