I've noticed on windy days that keeping the aircraft coordinated can be difficult -- the ball will tend to bounce back and forth in the turn coordinator, and I will find myself "chasing" it with the rudder pedals.

Any advice for managing this situation? At cruise it doesn't worry me as much as setting up for approach to land. I think I've read too many stall/spin in the pattern stories lately...

  • $\begingroup$ I've flown in some bumpy weather (VFR). My advice: don't chase any instruments! Just go with the flow... Literally $\endgroup$
    – Keegan
    Feb 9 '15 at 3:45

Don't chase the ball. Heck if you're VFR/VMC, you should barely be glancing at the ball or any of your instruments and should have eyes outside. Remember flying a little uncoordinated alone is not going to force a spin.

Stall + Yaw = Spin

So how do we mitigate this during gusty approaches? We fly a little bit faster. I like to use 1/2 the gust factor and add that to my final approach speed.

I'm not saying accept being uncoordinated, but when it's gusty out you don't chase airspeed, so why chase the ball?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ By 1/2 the gust factor, do you mean that if your normal approach speed is 100 kts IAS and the wind is gusting 20 kts, you'll aproach at 110 kts? $\endgroup$
    – Jon Story
    Feb 9 '15 at 13:33
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Gust factor being the difference between the gusts and and steady-state winds. If ATIS/tower is calling 13005G15KT then I'd fly 105KTS for FAS speed because the gust factor would be 10 KTS (15-5) $\endgroup$
    – user3309
    Feb 9 '15 at 14:01
  • $\begingroup$ Gotcha, thanks - I thought that's what you meant but just wanted to clarify $\endgroup$
    – Jon Story
    Feb 9 '15 at 14:03

The ball in the turn coordinator is loose, and it wants to stay in the same place as an object at rest wants to stay at rest. When the ball seems to be bouncing around it's actually the airplane bouncing around it due to rough air rather than the aircraft being our of balance relative to the airflow.

When you saw at the rudder in rough air you are actually throwing the aircraft out of balance one way and then the other. You can end up over-controlling with coarse rudder inputs and possibly snap-rolling the airplane, although that's unlikely. More likely you will just tire yourself out and waste concentration.

Keep your feet nice and steady on the controls, there's rarely any need for large inputs. When the air is smooth have a glance at the ball and make corrections then. Keep your vision outside the cockpit as much as possible and keep your airspeed up.


In a steady wind, even in gusty conditions, the wind direction doesn't change much, except by a few degrees. Its enough to glance at the ball each time you enter a turn and each time you return to straight flight, and make a gentle correction.

Where things get tricky is when the winds are variable (METAR: 180V240 or VRB005KT), there's wind shear, or there's turbulence, in which case you will be working the stick as well as the rudder to keep the plane on course and coordinated.

You'd have to get the ball pretty far (at least one ball diameter) out of whack to be dangerous, but your back seat passengers will feel any lack of coordination.


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