Crosswind Approach & Landing


  • Landing is the most dangerous phases of flight, as it is in a terminal area when the pilot is most likely to be fatigued and concentrating on the “get-there-itis
  • The goal of a crosswind landing is to safely and accurately establish and maintain a stabilized approach to landing, correcting for a crosswind during the approach, touchdown, and roll out




All procedures here are GENERALIZED for learning.
Fly the maneuver in accordance with the Pilot Operating Handbook (POH)
and/or current Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

Crosswind Component Chart
Figure 1: Crosswind Component Chart

Determining Crosswind Component:

    • Crosswinds can be determined through a number of methods which each serve a purpose, depending on the phase of flight
    • Check with your Pilot Operating Handbook for the appropriate limitations for your aircraft
    • When calculating the crosswind, use the full gust component
      • Mathematical Formula: Crosswind Component = Wind Speed x Sin (Wind Angle)
Heading Indicator Crosswind Rule-of-Thumb
Figure 3: Heading Indicator Crosswind Rule-of-Thumb
      • Example: if the wind is 310°@ 17 knots and you are lined up 330°, you can see you have a wind angle of 20°
      • Reference the chart to see the sine of 20° is 0.3 and multiply that by the wind component of 17 knots and you will get a crosswind component of 5 knots
    • Chart: [Figure 3]
      • Nearly ever POH will have a chart to calculate crosswind
      • Plot your point at the 20° radial line and with the 20° wind velocity
      • From that point move straight left for headwind component, roughly 19 knots
      • Straight down shows you your crosswind component, roughly 6 knots
    • Heading indicator rule of thumb: [Figure 4]
      • Find the reported wind direction on the outside of the DI (shown as a large blue arrow). You now have the first piece of information; the wind is from the right
      • Mentally drop a vertical line down from the wind direction on the outside of the DI to the horizontal centerline (shown in blue)
      • The horizontal center line (red) represents the crosswind axis so visually scale-off the crosswind component as a proportion of the length of the crosswind axis, ie, the wind speed. In Figure 5 it looks like the crosswind component is just less than 20 knots (mathematically the answer is 19 knots)
Crosswind Component Chart
Figure 4: Crosswind Component Chart
Heading Indicator Crosswind Rule-of-Thumb
Figure 5: Light Aircraft Association – Crosswind Calculations Made Easy
Airplane Flying Handbook, Figure 8-16. Side-slip Approach
Figure 6: Airplane Flying Handbook,Side-slip Approach

Compensation Techniques:

    • Slip:
      • A slip is a cross-control procedure where you are using “wing-low, top-rudder” to track the aircraft straight
      • The aircraft’s rudder is used to align to center while the wings are dripped (toward the wind) to maintain track (drift)
      • If held in aggressively, you will increase drag and allow for a quicker rate of descent if you are high
        • In doing this, you will need to lower the nose as the increase in drag without an increase in thrust will cause a rapid loss of airspeed, risking not only stalling, but stalling while cross-controlled, which can easily develop into a spin
      • Forward-slip: hang as much fuselage in the breeze as possible to create drag and bleed energy
        • Assuming that the runway is properly lined up the forward slip will allow the aircraft track to be maintained while steepening the descent without adding excessive airspeed
Figure 7: Airplane Flying Handbook, Crabbed Approach
      • Since the heading is not aligned with the runway, the slip must be removed before touchdown to avoid excessive side loading on the landing gear, and if a cross wind is present an appropriate side slip may be necessary at touchdown as described below
    • Side-slip: fly the airplane aligned with centerline in a crosswind
    • The horizontal component of lift forces the airplane to move sideways toward the low wing
    • Note that when performing a slip, the Pilot Operating Handbook may impose certain restrictions such as:
      • Avoiding slips with full flaps
      • Avoiding slips for prolonged periods of time which may result in fuel ports becoming uncovered
      • Airspeed indications may vary due to static ports receiving direct wind
        • If your static port is located on the left side of the fuselage, a slip using right rudder will cause the perceived static pressure to be higher than actual as ram air is forced into the static port, resulting in your indicated airspeed being less than actual. Therefore, it would normally be advisable to maintain an airspeed comfortably within the middle range of the white arc (flap operating range) to avoid being either too close to a cross-control stall or a flap over-speed condition
  • Crab:
    • Coordinated flight whereby you are pointing the nose of the aircraft upwind enough to keep the airplane’s ground track straight
    • The angle by which the aircraft is flying relative to the runway is considered the crosswind correction
    • It is most preferable, in general aviation, to fly a crab and transition to a slip for landing to avoid side-loading the landing gear
    • At some point during the final approach, a transition from crab to sideslip for the landing flare and touchdown should be made

C-172S Procedure:

    1. Complete the Descent Flows/Checklists
    2. Talk to tower as appropriate for the airspace you’re operating in
      • Controlled:[Tower], [Callsign], [Location], [Information], [Intentions]
      • Uncontrolled:[Facility Name], [Callsign], [Location], [Intentions], [Facility Name]
        • It is possible, but unlikely that a non-towered airport will have an information code, and if it did, there is no need to broadcast it
        • Requesting airport advisories will allow for other pilots or anyone monitoring the frequency to give updates on winds, the active runway, the number of people in the pattern, etc.
    3. Abide by tower’s instructions, but plan to enter the traffic pattern at Traffic Pattern Altitude (TPA) on a 45° entry to the downwind, maintaining a one-half mile distance from the runway on the downwind leg
    4. Set power to 2200 RPM, to establish and maintain 100 KIAS
      • Trim as necessary
    5. Abeam the point of intended landing, set power to 1500 RPM and set the flaps to 10°, begin a gentle descent and call
      • Controlled:[Tower], [Callsign] abeam, gear 3 down and locked, [Landing Type]
        • ATC:[Callsign], [Winds], cleared for [Landing Type], [Runway]
      • Uncontrolled: None
      • Anticipate the balloon effect when lowering the flaps
      • Trim as necessary
    6. At the 45° point to the intended touchdown point, commence a turn to the base leg
      • This is what you interpret to be 45° as you look over your shoulder back at the approach end of the runway
      • ICS:Cleared left, forward, clear right, turning [Left/Right]
      • Controlled: None
      • Uncontrolled:[Facility Name], [Callsign], turning base for [Runway], [Facility Name]
      • The wind is now at your side, so depending on its strength, you will need to compensate for drift with a crab angle
    7. Set the flaps to 20° and establish 75 KIAS
      • Anticipate the balloon effect when lowering the flaps
      • Trim as necessary
    8. Visually verify that the final approach is clear, and turn final
      • ICS:Cleared left, forward right, turning [Left/Right]
      • Controlled: None
      • Uncontrolled:[Facility Name], [Callsign], turning final for [Runway], [Facility Name]
    9. When landing is assured, set the flaps to 30° and establish 65 KIAS
      • Anticipate the balloon effect when lowering the flaps
      • Trim as necessary
    10. Transition from a crab to a slip
    11. By 300′ above landing, complete a GUMP check
  • Gas:
  • Undercarriage:
  • Mixture:
  • Prop:
Fuel Selector and Pumps – SET
Gear – DOWN AND LOCKED (if applicable)
Prop – FULL FORWARD (if applicable)
  1. At the round out, commence reducing power to idle, continuing the flare to touchdown on the upwind main wheel first, holding the nose wheel off with back pressure throughout the roll-out; allow settling gently
    • Round out when the distant trees go out of sight (look long to flare)
  2. Once the aircraft touches down, it will tend to find centerline on its own; you need to be judicious with your inputs to avoid any induced oscillations
  3. Subsequent runway centerline tracking requires only small rudder inputs to initiate directional corrections
  4. Increase aileron deflection into the wind as you decelerate, due to less airflow decreasing aileron effectiveness
  5. Maintain directional control throughout the roll-out with the rudder, slowing sufficiently before turning on a taxiway
  6. Exit the runway without delay at the first available taxiway or on a taxiway as instructed by ATC
    • An aircraft is considered clear of the runway when all parts of the aircraft are past the runway edge and there are no restrictions to its continued movement beyond the runway holding position markings
  7. Proceed with taxi procedures


  • NOTES:
    • When performed correctly, your traffic pattern leg ground track will be straight as if flying in no wind conditions


Exiting the Runway After Landing:

  • Pilots must not exit the landing runway onto another runway unless authorized by ATC
    • At airports with an operating control tower, pilots should not stop or reverse course on the runway without first obtaining ATC approval
  • In the absence of ATC instructions, the pilot is expected to taxi clear of the landing runway by taxiing beyond the runway holding position markings associated with the landing runway, even if that requires the aircraft to protrude into or cross another taxiway or ramp area
    • The tower will issue the pilot instructions which will permit the aircraft to enter another taxiway, runway, or ramp area when required
  • Once all parts of the aircraft have crossed the runway holding position markings, change to ground control frequency when advised by the tower and obtain a taxi clearance
    • The tower will issue instructions required to resolve any potential conflictions with other ground traffic prior to advising the pilot to contact ground control
    • Ground control will issue taxi clearance to parking. That clearance does not authorize the aircraft to “enter” or “cross” any runways. Pilots not familiar with the taxi route should request specific taxi instructions from ATC


Common Errors:

  • Attempting to land in crosswinds that exceed the airplane’s maximum demonstrated crosswind component
  • Inadequate compensation for wind drift on the turn from base leg to final approach, resulting in under or shooting
  • Flat or skidding turns from base leg to final approach as a result of overshooting/inadequate wind drift correction
  • Poor coordination during turn from base to final approach
  • Failure to complete the landing checklist in a timely manner
  • Un-stabilized approach
  • Inadequate compensation for wind drift on final approach
  • Failure to adequately compensate for flap extension
  • Poor trim technique on final approach
  • Failure to compensate for increased drag during side-slip, resulting in excessive sink rate and/or too low an airspeed
  • Attempting to maintain altitude or reach the runway using elevator alone
  • Focusing too close to the airplane resulting in too high a round out
  • Focusing too far from the airplane resulting in too low a round out
  • Touching down prior to attaining proper landing attitude
  • Failure to apply appropriate flight control inputs during roll-out
  • Failure to maintain directional control on roll-out
  • Touchdown while drifting
  • Excessive airspeed on touchdown
  • Excessive braking after touchdown
  • Slip:
    • Failure to reduce power to idle
    • Failure to add or increase flaps when available
    • Failure to apply and maintain full rudder deflection
    • Failure to use appropriate rudder/aileron combination during a crosswind situation
    • Failure to reduce pitch to maintain proper safe gliding airspeed



Figure 8: Airplane Flying Handbook, Crosswind Approach and Landing


Practical Test Standards:



  • Crosswind landing procedures are identical to that of a normal approach and landing, with the exception of wind corrections
  • Before every clearance to land, tower will give you the winds
    • Pay attention to this information! It may indicate a wind-shift you did not expect!
    • Set the heading bug, if available, to wind velocity to keep situational awareness to direction
  • If flying an instrument approach into a crosswind and you subsequently break out, avoid the temptation to point at the runway if you already have a correction in for the crosswind, let it work and adjust as necessary