Bring Cab Fare


Its occasionally been said that the real difference between genius and stupidity is that genius knows its limits. And if the discussion involves two flight instructors in the same airplane, the definition of unlimited stupidity stretches out to infinity and beyond.

As a new CFI, I had devised this theory about teaching crosswind landings. The best way to do it, according to my theory, was to pick a gusty day, find a crosswind and have at it. Theres nothing original about this; every CFI in the land has practiced it. But I can claim a unique teaching credential: extreme crosswind training.

I had been working with another CFI who was training to take the ATP ride. He had more time than I did, but almost all of it was serious military time in Blackhawk helicopters, some in combat. He was a recent convert to fixed-wing flying and, as sometimes seems to be the case with helo pilots, he couldnt grasp the idea of cross controlling to track the runway centerline in a crosswind.

Well, I knew how to fix that: I proposed a short session in a Warrior working on his crosswind technique. A cold front had just passed, and the wind was out of the west at 28 knots, with gusts to 35 knots, straight across runway 36 at our homebase. If this caused me the slightest pause, I dont remember it.

And I had a plan. In such extreme conditions, we wouldnt do touch and goes or land-we would simply do the approaches, fly the length of the runway in slipping flight, come around and do it again. We would land when we were done-and we did, too, just not where I intended.

Surprisingly, the gusts were trivial. The wind was actually closer to a steady 25 to 28 knots and almost perfectly zonal, with no bumps; the perfect crosswind laboratory.

You know that little note in the Cherokee POH that says that the demonstrated crosswind component is 17 knots? I had always been told this happened to be the wind available the day the test was done. We soon learned this was correct: The real limitation was somewhere between 17 and 28 knots.

After six passes, we further learned that there was not the slimmest glimmer of a chance we were going to land on runway 36 before running out of gas. With the rudder hard against the stop, some aileron remained, but the airplane drifted sideways vigorously enough that we couldnt fly more than a third of the runway without being blown into something.

“You do this much?” my student asked from the right seat, as we both attempted to manhandle the Warrior in the fierce winds.

Forty-five minutes into the thrashing, my student allowed as how he had pretty well figured out this rudder-aileron cross control thing now and could we please land? The end game was played out on an airport 25 miles away on Runway 27, where we stopped after a 100-foot ground roll. The lasting lesson? If youre going to do this sort of thing, bring cab fare. Youll probably need it.


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