I have a quick question about wind checks. When I spotting at Sydney (YSSY), I often hear tower clearing aircraft to land and giving them spot wind checks at the runway threshold, all pretty standard.

What I don't understand is when that wind check contains a downwind component. For example:

QFA32, Wind 160/10 Downwind 2, Cleared to land RWY 16R

(That is an example and not a wind scenario I've heard.)

Am I overthinking this? Is the downwind component just given when they are landing with a tailwind?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure that's part of the wind information, it sounds more like something about the number of aircraft landing. But I may be wrong, if no one knows then it would be great if you could find an example on liveatc.net or somewhere else. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    May 15, 2015 at 2:58
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    $\begingroup$ Could you write exact wording you did hear/update with such wording when you hear it next time? Or find something in Live ATC (but I don't know whether it's available for Australia)? There might be some detail you are missing—and therefore failed to capture it in the example—that is important for interpretation. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    May 15, 2015 at 4:44
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    $\begingroup$ Yeah, I'm guessing he's actually saying "QFA32, Wind 160@10, number 2, cleared to land runway 16R" rather than "downwind 2". Unless of course you can't clear number 2 to land in Australia, in which case, ignore me... $\endgroup$
    – falstro
    May 15, 2015 at 9:20

1 Answer 1


'Downwind' speed does indeed mean that the aircraft will be landing with a slight tailwind. Each aircraft/airline has a maximum downwind component which is acceptable to land with - generally about 5-10 knots. From my experiences as a private pilot in Australia, I have observed that ATC will tell the flight crew the current downwind component without being requested to do so. I find that they will also advise if the crosswind component is more than about 5-10 knots. It has been a few months since I last heard it but I believe the wording is along the lines of "Qantas 32 heavy, wind 210 at 7, maximum downwind 7 knots, runway 01 cleared to land". This information is also available on the ATIS.

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    $\begingroup$ Is this an Australian thing? I've never heard of ATC giving any more information than the usual wind direction/speed, and that tells the pilots anyway if there's a tailwind or crosswind. And in the OP's example there is no tailwind, but that might just be because he made up some numbers for the question. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    May 15, 2015 at 12:46
  • $\begingroup$ I assumed it was used everywhere.. but I also thought every country used "line up behind the 737 on final", and apparently that is not the case! I am a private pilot based at an airport in Australia that also sees a fair bit of airline traffic, so my answer is based on what I hear over the radio. ATC have never cleared me for an approach with tailwind but it does happen for the airliners, and the ATIS also includes the downwind component, as well as the advice from the actual controller. $\endgroup$
    – Ben
    May 15, 2015 at 13:08
  • $\begingroup$ Very interesting! That doesn't happen in the US, at least, I have no idea about other countries. Well, I do now know about Australia :-) You might want to mention the ATIS in your answer as well, that's a useful piece of information. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    May 15, 2015 at 13:21
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    $\begingroup$ @Pondlife 7110.65 3–5–3: When authorizing use of runways and a tailwind component exists, always state both wind direction and velocity. Nothing about explicitly telling the aircraft what the tailwind component actually is. $\endgroup$
    – randomhead
    Feb 10, 2021 at 15:53

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