Mention flying in crosswinds, even to experienced model pilots and watch them wince as they recollect horrors past!
Most flyers try their best to avoid flying, particularly taking off and landing in cross winds. This is quite natural because where possible it is always preferable to take off and land directly into wind.
However, there are times when this isn’t possible and pilots have to consider techniques and skills to deal with crosswinds. This can include limited access runways and public displays where there is a set runway and flightline. As always, if you’re not sure, you are always best to ere on the side of caution and not fly if you are unsure of your ability to deal with the conditions.
Taking Off in a Crosswind:
There is a difference to be noted by pilots in whether the crosswind is blowing you in or out from the runway, pits and pilot’s stance. It is even more critical to get things right if the wind is blowing the model towards you, the pits or other people. The model type is also critical to your chances of success. For example, lightly loaded high wing models with dihedral and tricycle undercarriages are amongst the most difficult…….Yes, I know, this accurately describes your average club trainer!
At this point if you are an inexperienced pilot, then it might be time to question and consider if it is really a good idea to continue!
Assuming the wind isn’t too strong and you want to proceed, you need to be prepared for what to expect. If the wind is trying to tip the model over whilst it’s still stationary on the runway, then this might be another opportunity to reconsider and quit before you potentially damage your model or end up hurting yourself or someone else.
I love to fly large aerobatic biplanes and they are significantly more affected by crosswinds than monoplanes.
As you ease open the throttle be prepared to keep the wings level with careful application of a little aileron towards the wind. At the same time, you need to concentrate on keeping the model tracking straight down the runway with your rudder. Be ready for the point at which the wheels start to leave the ground. The plane will likely try to yaw into the wind straight away. Keep it level on ailerons and allow the model to climb away steadily.
Don’t try to haul it off too early, there is always the risk of a stall, and in a crosswind you won’t stand a chance of saving the model.
Remember to use a little rudder against the wind to stop the model blowing off line or potentially over the flight line in an in blowing crosswind.
If the model starts to lift a wing or veers off sharply with the wind as you begin your take off run, cut the throttle immediately and abort the take off. To do otherwise is too risky and the model won’t be in full control at this point. Lightly loaded, high wing models and biplanes represent the worst possible case scenario. If the model is more heavily loaded, like a jet for example, it is easier to keep the model on track with subtle use of the rudder, but you must remember to allow enough speed to build up first before slowly and gradually taking to the air.
At all times you should be ready to compensate with aileron to keep the model level and as it begins to climb out, particularly in in-blowing winds, gently bank the model away from the flightline. Models that require a longer take off run need a bit more sustained skill and deft of touch on the rudder to keep them on line in blustery crosswind conditions.
Keeping Things in Shape in the Air:
If your goal is to fly accurate aerobatic schedules or freestyle routines in a crosswind, your internal computer, otherwise known as your brain, is working overtime to compensate for the wind trying to knock you off course! The important thing to remember is that you are trying to keep the model’s centre of gravity (CG) as the point of reference in any lines you draw in the sky. This is much easier said than done and it usually takes years of flying to get anywhere close to this ideal.
Real pros can make it look like there is no wind blowing at all, the only clue you get from the ground that there is a crosswind blowing is the pronounced yet constant yaw of the model as it traces an arrow straight line in the sky relative to the ground.
(Well, that’s the theory anyway!) I must confess that I find this easier with large petrol powered monoplanes. Well designed F3A machines do this very well indeed, it is a big part of their design brief.
Tune in next week for the second part of Ally Youngs tips for cross wind flight.