This question is related to a single engined cessna tricycle gear airplane. e.g, C152/C172.

The theory states that if the quartering tail-wind is from the right, the aileron needs to be all the way to the left with elevator held down. Can someone explain the physics behind this?

I understand this when you have a quartering headwind from the right. In this case you set the aileron on the right thereby reducing the lift on the right wing and increasing the lift on the left wing. This helps keep the right wing pressed down. But somehow the picture is not clear for the quartering tailwind.

Another way to look at this is to look at the wind as a vector. For a quartering headwind, the wind can be thought of as a wind component from the front and a wind component from the right. The wind component from the front is not a problem and the wind component from the right is balanced by the ailerons as discussed earlier.

Taking a similar approach for the taiwind from the right, the wind component from behind is taken care of by the elevator. That leaves only the wind component from the right. So the same aileron action should be required. But the books state the complete opposite.


1 Answer 1


The mnemonic that I use is, "climb into headwind, dive away from tailwind."

To address your question.

When the wind is a quartering tailwind, the tailwind component tends to want to lift the tail of the airplane, which could cause a prop strike or the airplane to be flipped over if the wind is strong enough. So by having the elevator all the way down, the wind hitting the tail will push the tail down instead of lifting it up.

The quartering tailwind hitting the trailing edge of the up-wind wing can lift the wing, so by diving away from the tailwind, the upwind aileron will be in the down position, which will help hold that wing down.

With regard to the physics of how this works, it has to do with the direction in which the wind is being deflected. When wind is coming from the front (headwind) an up aileron deflects the air up and pushes the wing down, but when the wind is coming from behind the wing, such as in a quartering tailwind while taxiing, the wind would catch an up aileron and lift the wing, so it is necessary to put the aileron down, so that the wind is deflected upwards thereby pushing that wing tip down.

  • $\begingroup$ This is the part I don't understand: "The crosswind component hitting the trailing edge of the up-wind wing can lift the wing". For a right quartering tailwind, I believe the up-wind wing is the right wing. If you want to reduce the lift on this one then the aileron control/yoke should be on the right? $\endgroup$ Jul 15, 2017 at 22:04
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I see where you are confused. Maybe if you think about the deflected wind, that will help you visualize what is happening. The down aileron on the up-wind wing is deflecting quartering tailwind air upwards, as the air hits the surface of the down aileron. As you know air that is deflected upwards will result in a downward force on that wing, helping to hold it down so that it isn't lifted up causing the aircraft to be flipped over. $\endgroup$
    – Devil07
    Jul 15, 2017 at 22:17
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, I think you are right. This is what I found in another book just a few seconds ago. The down aileron prevents the wing from flowing under it and lifting it. $\endgroup$ Jul 15, 2017 at 22:21

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