The prevailing winds where I'm training are almost always straight down the runway or from the left. I have no problem landing on (and staying on) centerline in either case.

However, when the crosswind is from the right, I tend to land on the centerline and then skip leftward.

I thought it was just me being inconsistent about my crosswind correction. However, during a recent lesson with wind 090, I was nailing every landing on 18, but when tower turned the airport around, I botched every landing on 36, so that seems to rule out coincidentally having a bad day every time there happens to be a right crosswind.

My CFI can't explain why I'm only having a problem with one side, much less how to fix it, and seems to be blowing it off since (now that the winds are back to normal) the problem has "gone away" again, but I'm not satisfied with that.

What could be causing this, and how do I practice for right crosswinds specifically when they are relatively rare here?

  • $\begingroup$ Are there no other airports in your vicinity with a different runway orientation? $\endgroup$ – Sanchises Dec 25 '19 at 10:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Sanchises With such consistent winds, all the runways (at least at GA airports) are lined up the same way. Few fields have even two, and those that do are parallels. $\endgroup$ – StephenS Dec 25 '19 at 14:58
  • $\begingroup$ Can you try flying from the other seat? $\endgroup$ – A. I. Breveleri Dec 26 '19 at 0:34
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    $\begingroup$ I would guess you're in a single-engine plane and the direction of rotation of the engine is the major factor in this. $\endgroup$ – Hot Licks Dec 26 '19 at 2:33
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    $\begingroup$ @Davidw All C172 so far. $\endgroup$ – StephenS Dec 26 '19 at 3:31

In my opinion it's because of your left of centerline vantage point and the sight picture burned into your brain by the always left side crosswind aspect, and in your particular case the transition to an opposite aspect is confusing your eye/brain/hands-feet processing more than other people. Everybody has their learning quirks.

The sight picture you are used to from your seating position, which includes the azimuth aspect (heading relative to center line) and bank angle from side slip, is a much bigger deal than a lot of people think. When pilots start flight instructor training, one of the first airborne activities is learning to fly a trainer from the right side. Some adjust right away, and for some it's like learning to land all over again. In your case it seems you are having a similar problem with the left crab/right crab change in sight picture from the left side.

You just need to practice right side crosswind landings until that sight picture starts to sink in and responses become automated, and then you will wonder what all the fuss is about.

I second Carlo's suggestion to use a home computer flight sim for this sort of thing, which are perfect for this sort of "sight picture" learning (use Track-IR as well because this provides much more realistic sight picture movement). Should help a lot. But, be careful that when you practice things at home you are practicing correct procedures, not reinforcing wrong ones; that's the one big pitfall of using home sims for practice/proficiency.

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    $\begingroup$ It's very likely the difference in seat height when slipping left versus right. Since the pilot will be higher from the ground when slipping because of a right crosswind, it will cause a later flare (assuming that he is flying from the left seat) if not corrected for, and the late flare can easily cause a skip/bounce. As you said, it just takes practice to learn the new sight picture. $\endgroup$ – Lnafziger Dec 26 '19 at 3:03
  • $\begingroup$ @Lnafziger I think that detail explains why this answer is (most) correct. Thanks! $\endgroup$ – StephenS Dec 26 '19 at 3:23
  • $\begingroup$ But a slip while landing is only a few degrees of bank so I'm not sure that is as big a factor as just the left/right orientation. When I first drove right hand drive in UK I had no problem staying on the correct side of the road, but I had a terrible time trying to stop driving left wheel on the shoulder, from subconsciously trying to restore the left side of the lane sight picture I was used to, with my view point on the right side of the car. In any case, it will take care of itself eventually. $\endgroup$ – John K Dec 26 '19 at 4:19
  • $\begingroup$ @johnk It's more than you may think, especially in a strong crosswind. Watch a light trainer landing on a windy day and see how high the opposite wheel is off the ground when the lower one touches down. Now, double that since it's the other wheel which is normally up. When you are flaring and trying to touch down smoothly, even a couple of feet can make a big difference. As far as centerline, most people simply land off to one side when learning to fly from the other seat (which isn't even a factor in this case), and learning to fly with the opposite hand is the more difficult aspect. $\endgroup$ – Lnafziger Dec 26 '19 at 5:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Lnafziger on reflection I agree with your comment and have added a bit to the post to reflect that. Thanks. $\endgroup$ – John K Dec 26 '19 at 15:36

Good answers, but one thing not mentioned is the fact that people are rarely completely ambidextrous. (I would guess that you are probably right handed, is this correct?) Because of this, we have a natural tendency to be more comfortable doing things in one direction over another. I have noticed this in my own skiing, and from instructing others; right handed people tend to be more comfortable turning left for some reason.

Being right handed I also tend to be more comfortable when the crosswind is from the left. Couple this with the fact that you have had much more practice with left crosswinds and it's no wonder you are less comfortable when wind is from the right. My advice is the same though, seek out opportunities to practice!

  • $\begingroup$ So, this is actually very likely part of the problem too, and likely due to the fact that most of his training was done from the left seat, using his left land to control the yoke and the right hand to control the power. When you move to the right seat, the roles of the hands reverse, and the muscle memory which has been learned now has to learned again using the new muscles! $\endgroup$ – Lnafziger Jan 28 '20 at 17:23

Carlo already mentioned the most probable cause to your drift to the left: aiming point being too close in front of you, I've dug up a couple more points from the archives of my mind for you to check :

  • The footwork is not symmetrical in left and right crosswind landings. This is because of the prop slipstream. As you've kicked the plane in alignment with the runway before touchdown, you have propably just retarded the engine at idle or are about to do that. You'll compensate for prop slipstream dissapearing by easing off right rudder ever so slightly. Now, depending on which side the crosswind is blowing from, the feeling should be different. You might be unconsciously trying to replicate the feeling in your feet to be the same.
  • I'm guessing you are flying a side by side cocpit, yes? your perspective is not the same on different crosswind directions. The difference in point of view is very small, about two feet, but for a beginner that's plenty enough to fool one's brain. You've mastered the left crosswind, you'll have to get used to the fact that stuff looks slightly different from where you sit, and the visual cues are a tad bit different.

I think you are gently sliding sideways during touchdown when you land in right crosswind. You manage to plant the plane on the centerline, but inertia drags you to the left.

Best fix for both points is to first and foremost do what Carlo suggested: aim at the end of the runway. You're not driving a car, so what's a 100 meters ahead of you is secondary, don't worry about it. Second: create a mental picture for yourself of what you must do to keep the plane on the centerline. Fly (or actually land) ahead of the plane.

And last but not least: don't worry about it, practise and one day it'll all just click into place inside you're head. After that, it's good for life as long as you keep flying.

caveat: It's been a while for me, but I worked it out, IIRC with the aforementioned cures

  • $\begingroup$ I have no problem keeping the nose pointed straight down the runway; it's just that in a right crosswind, the plane slides sideways toward the left side, which makes the tires skip. If the plane were turning, I'd think they wouldn't skip. $\endgroup$ – StephenS Dec 26 '19 at 3:36
  • $\begingroup$ If the tires are skipping and you are sliding to the left just after touchdown, it means you have lateral momentum at the time of the touchdown @StephenS : you are not flying parallel to the centerline. You need more bank angle towards the wind. You may be trying to make the crosswind landings look like mirror images from each other, the trick is to realize they are not mirror images, not visually and not from the steering point of view. $\endgroup$ – Jpe61 Dec 26 '19 at 11:19

Most likely this is inconsistency with your crosswind techniques in the round-out. Remember: use rudder pressure to point the nose at the far end of the runway, and aileron pressure to hold the aircraft on the centerline of the runway. Just how much pressure it takes is whatever is required to achieve and maintain these metrics. Also be mindful that you were not relaxing control pressures once you touch down. Remember to continue flying the airplane until you slow it to taxi speeds.

As additional practice, you can do it in a simulator like Prepar3-D. Set the local winds to whatever you want. This is a good way to practice your technique in moderate to extreme crosswinds, which would otherwise be hazardous to do in the actual airplane. That’s how I got to good at crosswind techniques.

  • $\begingroup$ This doesn't seem to address the central point of right vs left. It would be a good answer if I had problems with both. $\endgroup$ – StephenS Dec 25 '19 at 22:16
  • $\begingroup$ No what it means is the student is probably doing this correctly when landing in a left crosswind but not doing so in a right crosswind. This does happen from time to time. The CFI should demonstrate to him the proper sight picture or make the needed corrections just prior to touchdown to show the student what he's doing wrong and how to correct it. $\endgroup$ – Carlo Felicione Dec 25 '19 at 22:55

Long back I used to fly single engine piston aircraft which had large keel area making it very susceptible to crosswinds. I observed that whenever the winds were from right I had no problem in giving right aileron (right wing low) and left rudder and land on CL with nose straight. Strangely if the winds were from left some how I was just not comfortable in putting on bank to left (sitting on the left seat). I analysed that there was some sort of apprehension (may be intrinsic or subconscious) in putting myself down towards left. I always found it difficult to put on the required bank to the left. And it was more of some sort of unexplained fear or apprehension. Now I fly four engine big jets and whenever faced with significant cross winds from left I remind myself to look all along the the entire length of the Centre line during the last stages of the flight. Looking at the correct place ensures controls are moved in the correct sense and proportion. I hope it helps somehow. And I am a right hander.


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