Gale. Those aircraft landing videos

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Feb 19, 2022, 3:29:37 AM2/19/22
to Weather and Climate
Just to set the scene.  I was a professional pilot for 40 years.  The first part of my career in the Air Force involved thousands of landings ( I was an instructor for much of the time).  My later airline flying was all short-haul with durations rarely exceeding two. hours and again I was often teaching / supervising less experienced pilots.  So I did a lot of landings.

Time and again, in gusty windy conditions, I would say "Hold everything still" (meaning the controls).  On those widely shown videos taken during the storm, the controls can be seen (aileron spoilers, etc) thrashing around. - some classic examples of what those in the trade call "over-controlling".

If an aircraft captain is not happy with the situation at the planned destination - wind, cloud, runway blockage or whatever -  there will always be the option of diverting to an airfield with more benign conditions.  It is a requirement to have a suitable alternative airfield (pre-planned before flight).  It might be that in some airlines, stricter limits are placed on recently qualified captains until they gain experience.

Those videos are entertaining but hardly show the airline industry in a positive light.  I am sure many passengers will have long memories if ever they have to fly on a windy day.  Flying is incredibly safe  but perhaps more advice from senior pilots wouldn't go amiss.

Incidentally, I clocked up some 18,000 hours, nearly all on short flights: so one or two landings during that career!


Len W

Feb 19, 2022, 7:09:25 AM2/19/22
to Weather and Climate
How many times did you choose to go round Jack?

This attempted landing was not during Eunice, but on flight from Aberdeen 31st Jan, there seems to be some very nervous adjustments of the controls at touchdown.
What is your take on this one Jack?


Feb 19, 2022, 7:46:37 AM2/19/22
to Weather and Climate
Len asked: "How many times did you choose to go round Jack?"

I can't recall it happening in an airliner except when it was a poor visibility related issue (nothing seen at prescribed minimum).
But it certainly did when teaching new pilots in the Air Force (no passengers on baord).  As a conversion instructor on the Hercules, I did have one or two minor (?) scares. 

It is very easy to get out of phase with the controls - ie over-correct - so actually make things worse.  Perhaps - and I'll have to chat with my son (captain with easyJet) at some point - the software when doing automated approaches might also be too sensitive and correct every little disturbance when it might be better to leave things alone for a moment. 
Compare how easy it is in a skidding car to correct too much and skid the other way. 
Many of the recent videos showed massive control deflections - human input or autopilot - which quite possibly made things worse.

There are two basic methods of landing in a  cross wind:

Crab technique with wings level and a kick straight at the last moment to align the wheels with the direction of travel.  It can be quite a difficult exercise to time the kick straight exactly right.

Wing down is the alternative and the aircraft is lined up along the extended runway.  Americans long favoured this method (not appropriate of course for a very large low wing aircraft as there is a risk of tip strike).  The C130 Hercules and later the BAe 146 I flew used wing-down as standard and were very easy to land (and a lot of fun in say a crosswind gale)

A combination of crab and wing down is sometimes employed.

Back to the video.  It might have been better not to try quite so hard.  But basically, it was "F... Up"  The crews ought not to have been too proud to say: "Sod it.  We'll go to Stansted." 
But I wasn't there at the time so far be it for me to preach 23 years after I last flew an airliner.


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