February 2002 Issue

Unwanted Push

Tailwind airport operations are fairly common, but if they’re more than a light wind, accepting them is just downright foolish

[IMGCAP(1)] One of the most basic tenets in aviation is that an airplane ought to take off and land into the wind. Yet each year the accident statistics show that some pilots refuse to follow this basic rule. And each year the tailwind factor results in bent aluminum, injured passengers, or worse.

Right off we’ll acknowledge that there are occasions when a downwind departure is necessary. For example it is quite common due to ATC traffic flow and airport congestion at large terminals such as JFK, LaGuardia, Teterboro or Washington’s Reagan National. Then there are airports such as Aspen, Colo., with a mandatory downhill departure on runway 33 – often with tailwinds – due to surrounding t...

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