Essential Crosswinds (Not Tested)!

We bend and break more planes in crosswinds landings than in any other phase of flight. Take off and landing = 64.1% of accidents  and 80% involve wind as a causal factor. This large number of accidents represents less than 5% of piloting time and does not include “incidents” and non-towered “grass excursions” (oops!) The FAA does not require the demonstration of crosswind landing skills in the FAA private or commercial ACS so it is often not taught (specified on ATP/Type in sim.)  This is a very sad commentary on aviation safety and CFI professionalism. The post-test “trial and error” acquisition of this skill is obviously just not working.

When the winds blow, the risks increase for light aircraft operations. The single leading cause of accidents involves loss of directional control during takeoff or landing…over an 11-year period the National Transportation Safety Board identified wind as a primary cause of more than 2,800 accidents.

The CFI is the primary determiner of aviation safety. They spend many flight hours and months creating a safe pilot. The DPE only sees them for a couple hours and DPEs have a strict “no teaching” mandate from the FAA. The standard is “yes or no” and “perfection is not the standard”. As a whole, flight training providers are failing pilots in training. If a pilot does not learn a skill in their primary training, they are out in the world to learn and discover this on their own. It is incumbent upon a conscientious CFI to teach the crosswind skills necessary for safe piloting!

Trying to incorporate crosswind testing into a standard (see above) might unnecessarily complicate the testing process (waiting for wind) and I am sure that is why it was probably removed. But it is the duty of every professional CFI to insist on crosswind skills for their pilots (at all levels). For private pilot level pilots, please embrace the “10@10K landing initiative” – fly 10 landings with at least a 10K crosswind – and log it! This would be just like the 10 required night landings we are required for private. Pilots need this capability to be safe…hopefully, this helps? Fly safely (and often)!

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Author: David St. George

SAFE Director, Master CFI (12X), FAA DPE, ATP (ME/SE) Currently jet charter captain.

12 thoughts on “Essential Crosswinds (Not Tested)!”

  1. David, agree with all said. The crosswind problem was never more evident for me than when I arrived at 4B8 (where I am now based) on a training flight. On final for runway 02, we noticed objects to the right of the runway. Coming over the runway to land, there was a pick-up truck on the slope east of the runway, and then as we transitioned to a go-around, we saw a 172 laying upside down on the railroad tracks 114ft east and 13ft below the runway.

    Was wondering about the quizzing on the checkride when there is no crosswind and the applicant’s knowledge of crosswind elements “must be evaluated through oral testing”. Could you comment on that discussion? Does the FAA have required guidance or are the questions individualized by each examiner?

  2. Might I add a similar ideal of “Essential Gusting”? And even further “Essential Crosswind with Gusts”? Of course those should be taught when the student is more proficient, closer to the check ride.

    1. A little gust is important…more realism. Fortunately, I know your CFI taught you those skills already!

    2. You are right “gusts” are a separate challenge (also not taught)! Unfortunately, to the proficient CFI that threat quickly disappears and is often overlooked. Great point👍

  3. Hi. You suggest pilots embrace the “10@10K landing initiative.” But you don’t explain what exactly this is. Perhaps a link to something, or a quick explanation? A brief google just brought me back here.

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