A few weeks ago, a storm passed through my area with winds reported at 55kt and gusting to 68kt. Many light planes managed to break their tie-down ropes and were flung around the ramp area, which isn't surprising given the storm's winds were definitely above a typical light plane's VS0, VS1 and VR, possibly above VREF, VX and even VY. Pilots being pilots, though, there were soon jokes about being able to take off and land vertically.

I understand that actually trying this would be a very bad idea, even before one considers the other aspects of the storm, e.g. lightning, rain, hail, low visibility, etc. that would make flying unsafe anyway. I would never even think of trying it. Still, it seems like an interesting theoretical question.

Is it even theoretically possible to "land" or "take off" in such winds, at least within the usual meaning of those words? I can see that you could fly to touchdown easily enough, but how would you stop flying? How could you taxi and secure an aircraft when you need significant power just to not go flying up (and probably backward) off the ramp?


2 Answers 2


It can be done. Some bushplane action...

  • $\begingroup$ Video link is broken. $\endgroup$
    – StephenS
    Nov 7, 2021 at 18:57

In an unmodified GA aircraft gusty winds would be beyond any reasonable safety limits.

In a steady wind the trick would be to reduce your AOA to a point where your airspeed no longer generated enough lift to exceed the weight of the plane. Immediately raising flaps after touch down and heavy braking would increase your chances (you may not have much ground speed at all anyways!).

The Space Shuttle Orbiter used a shortened nose wheel strut to help hold the runway after landing at over 200 mph (making its own Category 5 hurricane). Once the nose dropped through 0 lift AOA and into negative lift AOA, the wind would actually help hold it on the runway.

But for the average Cessna, the best move is not to put yourself in that situation. Check weather before flying, and divert to a safer airport if you can. A large airport with long, wide runways and someone to help you would greatly improve the odds.

If you had to land, it would be directly into the wind. Once down, taxi into the wind with some down elevator. I would be screaming on the radio for people to help secure the plane.

But if you get down, save your life first, then the plane if you can.

  • $\begingroup$ +1 for last sentence $\endgroup$
    – vasin1987
    Apr 9, 2019 at 3:21
  • $\begingroup$ indeed. I've seen the aftermath of a very heavy storm on improperly secured commuter planes, and it wasn't pretty. That same storm would have blown an unsecured C172 right into the side of a hangar (or another aircraft). Bad enough if nobody's on board, but if you are on board it's far worse. $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Apr 9, 2019 at 4:22

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