July 2008 Issue

Wind Gusts Effect on Airframes and Airspeeds

Understanding wind gusts, along with their effect on airframes and airspeeds, gives you an edge against Mother Nature at her most fickle.

Comanche seven-three Papa, Wichita approach; winds two-zero-zero degrees at one-eight, gusts to 30." "Approach, seven-three Pop; copy the winds...guess we’ll keep up the pace a bit." "Comanche Seven-Three Papa, Dorothy says, ‘Welcome to Kansas.’" When first sitting down to assemble this article, my initial thoughts turned to my logbook. Inside it are more than a few notations about such not-unusual days; the controller’s welcome in this one made me chuckle. At almost the same instant, the sound of 30-knot gusts rattling the trees outside my office focused my attention on the day’s local conditions—an environment offering abundant signs that any flying means dealing with gusts. My familiarity with gusty conditions started developing during my primary training. A regular part of my time-building solo practice involved August afternoons hopping among five Wichita-area fields. Typically, those hot summer days and nights brought winds blowing hard, in the teens to low 20s, and usually gusty—as much as 20 knots above the mean. For much of that month gusty winds served up a significant challenge for a student pilot armed only with a Cherokee 140 and determination. Hey, it’s Kansas.

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