Caution IN the WindCaution IN the Wind

Gusty spring windsGusty spring winds

Now that spring is here, many pilots dust off their pilot certificates and start flying again. Here at ASF, it's easy to tell when springtime has arrived: our accident database is suddenly inundated with dozens of accident reports documenting pilot inability to handle gusty spring winds.

If you haven't flown much during the winter months, a couple hours of dual might help you avoid the kind of accidents detailed here. All these occurred one year ago this month. Although no one was hurt in any of these accidents, the four aircraft were substantially damaged.

On April 1, a Cessna 195B was taking off from Montgomery County Airport in Conroe, Texas. The pilot of the tailwheel airplane was using runway 19, and the winds were from 170 degrees at 9 knots. During the takeoff roll, the left wing rose and the right wingtip dragged on the ground. According to the pilot, full left aileron and right rudder couldn't keep the plane from weathervaning. The pilot then reduced power, and the airplane "nosed down and landed on its back." The cause of this accident was the failure of the pilot to properly compensate for the wind, which resulted in a ground loop.

On April 13, a Piper Seneca on final approach to runway 27 at Hagerstown, Maryland experienced light to moderate turbulence and a head/cross wind that required a 30 to 40 degree wind correction. The pilot said that at about 100 feet above the runway, however, the crosswind subsided dramatically. At 3 to 5 feet above the runway, he reported a "significant and abrupt" buffeting of the airplane. The airplane then weathervaned to the right, rolled left, and started to drift left of centerline. The pilot applied corrective control inputs, but the airplane touched down nose wheel first, bounced and then landed nose wheel first again. The nose gear collapsed and the props contacted the runway. Reported winds at the time of the accident were 280 degrees at 22 knots with gusts to 28. According to the NTSB, the cause of this accident was the pilot's failure to maintain runway alignment during the landing phase. A factor in the accident was a sudden change in wind direction and speed.

On April 22, the pilot of a Cessna 177 attempted a go-around from Runway 20, a 2,100-foot turf runway at Hampton Airfield in Hampton, New Hampshire. After passing over a tree line, the airspeed "shot up" to 105 knots and then back to 80 knots. Perceiving this to be heavy turbulence, the pilot chose to execute a go-around, climbing at "best climb of 65 to 70 knots". The airplane would not ascend and struck trees 50 feet beyond the departure end of the runway. Reported winds in the area at the time of the accident were 280 degrees at 18 knots with gusts to 25 knots. The NTSB reported this accident was caused by the pilot's inadvertent encounter with a downdraft.

On April 29, a pilot on short final to runway 27 at the Virginia Municipal Airport in Eveleth, Minnesota, attempted a go-around when a gust of wind blew his Cessna 172M off the centerline. A subsequent gust caused the airplane to enter a right turn. According to the pilot he "added full power and was going to go-around, but at that slow speed, I didn't have much aileron control and could not get the airplane to turn into the wind." The pilot did not have enough airspeed to clear the trees along the right side of the runway. Local winds at the time of the accident were 200 degrees at 16 knots with gusts to 24 knots. The NTSB determined the cause of this accident to be the pilot's inadequate compensation for the crosswind condition.

Here are some helpful ASI and AOPA links:

Accident reports can be found in ASI's Online Database.

Originally published: April 4, 2003.