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Training and Safety Tip: Crosswind takeoffs

Knowing how to position the flight controls during taxiing prepares you for crosswind takeoffs. When you are ready to take off, you already have a basic understanding of how the controls should be positioned. You have experienced the prevailing wind taxiing to the runway and you kept your airplane on or very near the taxiway centerline. During takeoff your job is to keep your airplane on the dashed white line and over the runway during climbout.

Practicing crosswind takeoffs while training helps build confidence for more than just the checkride. Photo by Mike Fizer.

Crosswind takeoffs in light airplanes are typically easier than crosswind landings because your airspeed is accelerating, which results in improved flight control effectiveness. On windy days you may have a quartering or even a direct crosswind to deal with and the wind may not be steady in velocity and direction. When lined up on the runway centerline ready to apply takeoff power, use full down aileron deflection on the upwind wing. Trim the elevator for neutral, and apply gentle back pressure at rotation speed. As the airplane accelerates, remember that control effectiveness increases and aileron deflection should be gradually reduced accordingly. Centerline control also increases with increasing aerodynamic effectiveness of the rudder.

Takeoffs are always a very interactive procedure between pilot and airplane, and crosswind takeoffs are even more so. Experience what the wind is doing to the airplane and adjust the aileron, rudder, and elevator controls as needed. When the airplane is off the ground at an altitude that ensures the wheels will not settle back onto the runway, crab into the wind to maintain the flight path over the centerline—and then the extended centerline—of the runway.

You need to experience flying in windy conditions—doing so will continually increase your comfort level. That means it is important to determine your skill and comfort level limitations and expand them. When the wind is blowing, invest in additional instruction to boost your confidence and comfort level.

Ed Helmick

Ed Helmick has been a flight instructor since 1988. He formerly managed a flight school in Spanish Fork, Utah, as well as schools in Scottsdale, Arizona; and Honolulu, Hawaii.
Topics: Training and Safety, Takeoffs and Landings, Technique
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