I’ve seen this video. So, aviation-knowledgeable dopers–how lucky are they that they didn’t break off the wing, or damage it too badly to fly, or do a pinwheel, or otherwise perish horribly? Were the pilots, as they took to the air again, praying the wing wouldn’t fall off?
Well, 'Coming in sideways" is what you have to do when you have a crosswind. It’s called crabbing. The other option is called a slip. Generally, when landing with a crosswind, you approach in a crab - then put it in a slip before you touch down.
A crab puts some of the thrust vector toward the crosswind to compensate and keep the airplane travelling parallel with the runway. A slip puts some of the lift vector toward the crosswind. The problem with a slip is that is makes the passengers uncomfortable, so you don’t want that to happen any longer than it has to. A crab keeps the wings level, but the wheels aren’t pointing in the right direction when you land - which isn’t very good for the plane.
brewha, you describe “crabbing” in a very matter-of-fact, no-big-deal sort of way. Is this a relatively common landing procedure that pilots are familiar with, and is just incredibly frightening for us non-pilot-professionals to watch?
I landed once into a crosswind like that at Palm Springs. The wings didn’t tip but it looked like we were coming in at a 30 degree angle to the runway. This was in a pretty small prop plane out of Phoenix about 10 years ago. Not fun.
I didn’t really get a chance to finish my thought - work kinda interrupted.
Yes, any licensed pilot is quite familiar with what a crab and a slip is - you get lots of practice before you get your license. Properly done, a crosswind landing is not (very) hard on a plane. You approach in a crab. The nose of the plane is not pointed directly down the runway, but somewhat into the wind. How much it’s pointed into the wind depends on how much wind there is. This way, the wings stay level and the plane is flown normally. Then, when you are close to touching down, you kick in some rudder to point the nose down the runway and bank into the wind to keep from drifting to the downwind side of the runway. You then land the plane in a bank and the upwind main landing gear wheel touches down first followed by the nose or tail wheel then the downwind wheel. This is tricky because you are ‘cross controlling’ which is what happens when you have opposite aileron and rudder. It’s also less than settling for passengers because they can feel the airplane is banked. In a coordinated turn (which most turns in an airplane are) the passenger doesn’t feel any lateral motion - in a slip they will.
If you are landing at an airport that does not have a runway pointing into the wind, you have no choice but to either land in a crosswind or find a different airport.
Crosswind landings can be tricky, but usually routine. I’d say they’re one of the more difficult maneuvers for new pilots. It usually takes experience to really know what you’re doing and gain confidence in strong crosswinds.
Airliners and other large aircraft usually use a crab method rather than a sideslip. This is because there isn’t much ground clearance for the engines that are hanging off the wing. So you can’t put a wing down into the wind as you would in a sideslip maneuver.
The timing of the crab technique is a little tighter, which is why most new pilots do sideslips.
Good video. That first approach certainly seemed a sporting affair.
My FIL is a pilot and instructor as well, and I’m rather into aviation, we’ve discussed this at relative length in the past, and yeah, Mac is right on the money, not that the instructor needs MY validation, but still.
On another note, I landed in DC just this morning at Reagan, I don’t know what the pilot was up to or up against, but he about dipped the wingtips into the feckin Potomac a handful of times before he bounced that bird off the runway. He took responsibility for a ‘firm’ landing over the intercom later. Firm landing my fat German ass we were were two hopes and a wish away from a fiery death, and I don’t sweat airplanes, not at all afraid to fly, this though, holy crap.
The big B-52 bombers that the Air Force operates are able to rotate all of their landing gear some remarkable angle in either direction (50 degrees, IIRC), so they can crab right down onto the runway if they need to in a cross wind.
Of course, military bombers are built with different design requirements than civilian airliners, and their payloads far less likely to be bothered (for the most part, bombs will go along without complaint with anything you might try to do with the airplane, short of flying it into something.)
The problem wasn’t the crosswind, it was the wind shear that the plane got hit with just before touchdown. Here is a video of some Boeing 747 and 777 crosswind landing tests without wind shear. If you look closely at the 3rd and 4th landing you can see the landing gear is steered off to the side to compensate for the crab.
What’s the demonstrated crosswind component of an A320? (Anyone have a POH handy?) CNN reported earlier (and the link says they reported earlier) 155 mph crosswinds, but I see they’re now saying 48 knots. Still, that’s a pretty strong crosswind. IANA airline pilot, but I think I’d be looking for a different runway.
I saw the video on the late Sunday night German news videopodcast - very scary.
Johnny L.A., there’s an article on the channel 1 website right now (sorry, it’s in German) that says that the German version of the NTSB and a pilot’s association are both wondering why the runway was in use, given the wind speed and direction. (There were awful storms all over Germany on Saturday.) A different runway would apparently have been a safer option.