How Planes Land Sideways In High Winds
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How Planes Land Sideways In High Winds


Narrator: It’s not always a smooth and pleasant landing for airplanes. Intense strong winds
can affect the position of how planes land on the runway, making it look like the plane is literally landing sideways. Here’s how planes land
sideways in high winds. Landings like this actually
have a name, crabbing. The name comes from the
way crabs walk sideways across the beach. That’s kind of what
the airplane looks like when it’s landing this way. Crabbing is usually needed
because of high crosswinds. Les: The wind can either be blowing straight down the runway or 90 degrees to the runway
or somewhere in between. And usually it’s somewhere
in between there. Narrator: That’s Les Westbrooks. He teaches aeronautical science at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and is a retired airline pilot. – Landing in a crosswind situation requires a couple of different maneuvers. When we’re at altitude, the
aircraft just flies in a crab, and we just go across, kinda sideways. Once we get down to the
ground, we can’t land with the aircraft in a crab, because that’s gonna put a lot of stress on the outside of the landing gear, and could actually cause
the landing gear to collapse if we put too much stress on it. Narrator: Whenever there is a crosswind, there’s a lot of turbulence, so it’s not like the pilots are flying through a slight summer breeze. Of course the ultimate goal is for the aircraft to land straight, where the nose of the
plane is in alignment with the stripe that’s down the runway. Those crosswinds sure make it challenging! – There is an angle to that. You know, as a forced
vector, so the direction and the intensity that it’s
coming at will determine how much input we have to put into the aircraft’s flight controls. Narrator: As the plane comes in, the pilots are actively controlling it, so that it’s in the
perfect landing position. But, when a gust of wind
comes at the wrong time, it will cause the pilot to execute a go-around instead of landing. If the crosswinds are severe enough, around 45 miles per hour or so, the pilot does not have enough control to straighten the airplane out and land. If this happens, the pilot
will abandon the approach and divert the plane to another airport. These strong winds can prevent the planes from taking off at an airport. That’s sometimes where
those flight delays come in, and we all love those! So, exactly how do the aircrafts
land in these conditions? Les: So, at the last minute, we want to move the nose of the aircraft parallel with the runway,
but soon as we do that, the aircraft’s gonna start blowing off to the side of the runway with the wind. So in order to counteract that, we’d lower the wing, the upwind wing, we lower the wing, and
straighten the nose out, and a perfect crosswind landing will be when the upwind
wheel touches down first, the aircraft is straight down the runway, and then the second wheel
will come down after that. Narrator: Finally, the
plane is on the runway and heading to the terminal. – Some of your best
landings are actually made when it is in challenging conditions, ’cause you are on your A-game
when you’re doing this. All right, and you’re completely engaged, and actively controlling the airplane so, actually some of our
best landings are made when we are in these
crosswind landing situations. Narrator: So, if you’re ever on a plane that feels like it’s landing sideways, feel safe knowing the
pilots have the situation totally under control.

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