I am still confused whether a head wind or tailwind would affect the rate of climb. Since in a HW/TW condition our a/c is basically still climbing in the same parcel of air, it is just that parcel of air is moving with or against our course hence increasing/decreasing the horizontal distance covered to get to the target height. This means that the time needed to get to the target altitude is not affected at all, but the horizontal distance is.

Yet my friends have been insisting that with a headwind an aircraft would climb faster to the target height, as the headwind helps create more lift by increasing the amount of air passing through the wings.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Consider the extreme case: What happens if you are climbing in a direct headwind where the horizontal component is equal to the ground speed at best climb? $\endgroup$
    – user
    Aug 16 '18 at 8:49
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ A headwind or tailwind affects your angle of climb. In a headwind you cover less ground for the same gain in altitude, so you're climbing at a higher angle relative to the ground. $\endgroup$ Aug 16 '18 at 13:28
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Possible duplicate of Does a headwind affect the climb gradient? $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Aug 16 '18 at 13:36
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This is not a duplicate of the linked question. That one is about the climb gradient, which is different from the rate of climb asked about here. The answers on the linked question explain why. $\endgroup$
    – Dan Hulme
    Aug 16 '18 at 15:31
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Your friends may be assuming that you can somehow maintain constant ground speed. Perhaps you need to emphasise that isn't the case? $\endgroup$ Aug 16 '18 at 16:06

A steady (continuous) head wind (or tail wind) will not affect your climb rate, only your climb angle. It means you will reach a specific altitude in the same time interval, but your ground distance will be affected.

A head wind increase (as in a gust) will momentary increase your indicated airspeed, which you can trade for a (momentary) increase of climb rate. Similarly, a tail wind gust will temporarily decrease your indicated airspeed and you might have to pitch the nose down a little, to maintain airspeed and therefore reducing climb rate. These are only transitory effects, until the plane settles back to its original trim speed.


Your climb rate is dependent on your airspeed. If you are doing the same airspeed your rate of climb will be same no matter what the direction of wind is compared to your aircraft.

Just to clarify that climb rate is also dependent on pitch, but the general rule of thumb is that power controls climb and pitch controls speed. In reality you use both, but climb is not dependent on wind speed.

  • $\begingroup$ Climb rate will also depend on your pitch angle at a given airspeed! $\endgroup$
    – Bianfable
    Jul 9 '19 at 16:52
  • $\begingroup$ Sure. And on engine power output. And on weight of plane. Not sure how that comment is relevant to understanding or improving answer. $\endgroup$ Jul 9 '19 at 16:58
  • $\begingroup$ I assume you don't mean to suggest that pitch attitude somehow depends on orientation with respect to wind $\endgroup$ Jul 9 '19 at 17:24
  • $\begingroup$ What i was trying to do is dispel the myth that wind direction affects climb rate. We know as pilots that you control climb with throttle and speed with pitch. Obviously it is a combination of the two, but those are the rules of thumb, not how strong the wind is blowing. $\endgroup$ Jul 10 '19 at 6:45
  • $\begingroup$ My comments were directed at Bianfable's comments not your answer; didn't make that clear. The answer is fine. $\endgroup$ Jul 10 '19 at 13:25

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.