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Consider a pilot is flying a conventional fixed wing airplane with a ground speed of 60km/h with no wind. Then suddenly the wind starts blowing at 20km/h in either of the following directions:

  • from back to front (tail wind).
  • from front to back (head wind).
  • from left to right (cross wind).

What should the pilot do to maintain speed and altitude in each of the possible situations above?

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  • $\begingroup$ Could you explain how will the wind blow simultaneously from opposite directions? Are you talking about gusts? $\endgroup$ Sep 26, 2019 at 7:52
  • $\begingroup$ I didn't say the wind blows at simultaneously. They are three situations that could be happen. $\endgroup$ Sep 26, 2019 at 8:30
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    $\begingroup$ @AirCraft Lover: Where will you find a conventional plane that can fly at 60 km/hr? That's 32 kts! If it's a gust/wind sheer, you might stall, though in most GA airplanes, you'd already be in a stall. Otherwise, you reduce power, add power, or change heading and add power. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Sep 26, 2019 at 17:02
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    $\begingroup$ I am downvoting this question as it makes no sense to ask about an aircraft that cruises at 32 knots. Please edit the question to something more reasonable. $\endgroup$ Sep 26, 2019 at 18:16
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    $\begingroup$ @quiet flyer: I don't think ultralights qualify as conventional planes, pretty much by definition :-) $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Sep 28, 2019 at 18:10

2 Answers 2

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Many people stress energy and airspeed management, this is a good example.

Sometimes a strong gust can reduce airspeed faster than your engine can increase it. The sudden tail wind gust is very dangerous near the ground. Increase throttle and pitch down. Use your potential energy plus the engine thrust to maintain airspeed. Wind conditions found in microbursts can create this effect. Constantly check airspeed.

A strong headwind gust has the opposite effect, causing a momentary increase in airspeed, and increase in altitude. Rarely a problem, keep an eye on airspeed as the gust passes, continue to use pitch and power to control airspeed and altitude as needed.

Side gust effect will affect your heading much more than speed and altitude, as it's velocity change does not add or subtract from airspeed. Effects here could include a sharp roll initially away from the gust, and the nose being pushed into the wind from side force on the empennage. A stable plane should mostly self-recover without significant loss of altitude.

The mantra "the plane just moves with the air mass" does not apply to gusts. This is why pilots generally approach at slightly higher airspeed under those conditions.

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  • $\begingroup$ The rule of thumb for approach is add half of gust windspeed to your normal approach speed. $\endgroup$
    – Jpe61
    Sep 26, 2019 at 9:06
  • $\begingroup$ I note this Increase throttle and pitch down. What is the intention of pitching down? $\endgroup$ Sep 26, 2019 at 14:25
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    $\begingroup$ Instantaneous increase in speed. $\endgroup$ Sep 26, 2019 at 14:48
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the explanation. $\endgroup$ Sep 27, 2019 at 2:39
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On encountering a sudden tailwind or crosswind gust on par with the previous airspeed, the pilot should immediately deploy the ballistic parachute to avoid crashing. With an equivalent headwind gust, pulling up into a loop to dissipate the excess energy is often the best strategy.

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  • $\begingroup$ How many conventional planes are equipped with ballistic parachutes? $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Sep 28, 2019 at 18:12
  • $\begingroup$ Please refer to the rule #14 $\endgroup$
    – Jpe61
    Sep 28, 2019 at 18:58

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