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I'm having a terrible time nailing my crosswind landings. I'm a student pilot and have about 30 hours in a Cherokee 180 and working on my solo CC's.

I start out doing a side slip method on short final with my upwind wing dipped and using opposite rudder. All is usually great, up until I start my round-out. As soon as I start rounding out, I feel as if I'm using too much rudder to stay on center and fear I'm going to side load on touchdown. If I release some rudder pressure, I immediately start turning upwind and struggle to get back on centerline. If I compensate by releasing a little aileron input to compensate, I drift downwind.

Is there a technique I can use to get this figured out? Just more practice? My CFI keeps telling me the same thing "ailerons into the wind, opposite rudder" and can't seem to help me pinpoint what I'm doing wrong. Maybe time to try a new CFI?

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    $\begingroup$ If it puts your mind at ease in any way, at 300(ish) hours I still feel like every significant crosswind landing is pretty terrible. They're all safe enough though and I've managed to walk away from every one. Its just an unnatural thing to try to do, and requires you to go against your natural judgement of the controls. $\endgroup$
    – Jamiec
    Commented Oct 10, 2022 at 16:50
  • $\begingroup$ I would find out if it were possible to have "too much rudder" with a Ckerokee 180. The rudder controls where the nose points. That's it. Ailerons hold you against the wind. The real problem is the wind can change so please don't worry about being perfect, just keep flying the plane all the way down as best you can. Typically you can land on one wheel. You will only "side load" if you are drifting. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 10, 2022 at 19:23
  • $\begingroup$ Keep in mind the wind can change even between 2 feet above the ground and 10, and if it does change, it usually changes to be calmer at the ground. You may in fact be holding too much aileron and rudder if keeping the same control inputs all the way down final to touchdown. $\endgroup$
    – Tyzoid
    Commented Oct 11, 2022 at 20:58

5 Answers 5

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I feel as if I'm using too much rudder to stay on center

This part of your question suggests that you may have some misconception about how to judge what control inputs are needed during a crosswind landing.

From a pilot's practical perspective, during a crosswind landing using the "wing down" (sideslip) method, rudder controls heading, and ailerons control (via bank angle) the aircraft's sideways "drift" (either upwind or downwind), or lack thereof.

(From a fundamental point of view, that's not really what the controls are doing1, but when we include the pilot in the loop, in this particular situation, that's the net outcome.)

So you make rudder inputs as needed to hold heading, and you make aileron inputs as needed to stay on the centerline.

There's no "set" amount of aileron deflection that should go with any given rudder input, or vice versa. (Well actually there is, at least for one given airplane, at one particular airspeed, flying in a perfect world featuring a crosswind that is totally smooth with no gusts etc-- but we don't live in a perfect world.) So just use the rudder, and ailerons, as described above, as needed.

Changes in one of the two control inputs (rudder or ailerons) will normally drive a need to vary the other control input as well, for reasons that are beyond the scope of this brief answer. Don't worry about it, just continue to apply inputs as needed as described above.

You'll almost always find that you need to dial down the rudder and aileron inputs as you descend down through the wind gradient near the ground. No problem-- just continue applying the corrections as needed as described above.

Another answer to this question has made an excellent suggestion for a practice exercise.

Footnotes:

  1. This answer is aimed at aircraft of a basically conventional configuration, and more specifically, aircraft that generate some amount of net sideforce in the "downwind" direction when being flown in a sideslip. But for a real "outside-of-the-box" mind-bender, consider the following: imagine a nearly all-wing aircraft with no fuselage, and a swept wing. There is virtually no cross-sectional surface area that would generate a "downwind" sideforce in a sideslip. Directional stability ("weathervane" stability) is entirely due to sweep. There is an all-moving rudder/ vertical tail with no fixed portion, mounted on a slender tail boom, only a short distance behind the CG. Due to the short moment-arm, the rudder must generate a lot of sideforce to generate a yaw torque to create a sideslip (i.e. to yaw the aircraft's nose out of alignment with the actual direction of the flight path and relative wind), and the sideforce from the rudder acts in the upwind direction in relation to the relative wind. So the net sideforce during sideslipping flight is in the upwind direction, not the downwind direction as would normally be the case. Imagine that this aircraft is on final approach in crabbed (coordinated, non-slipping) attitude, and the pilot then applies rudder to align the nose with the runway heading. To cancel out the sideforce resulting from the deflected rudder, and balance the forces on the aircraft and keep the aircraft moving in a straight line, must the pilot bank the aircraft in the upwind direction as is normally the case, or in the downwind direction? If the pilot attempts a last-minute "kick out the crab" style of crosswind landing without banking at all, and if the touchdown is accidentally delayed and the pilot continues to work the rudder as needed to keep the aircraft heading parallel to the runway heading, while keeping the wings level, will the aircraft "drift"-- i.e. will the flight path curve-- toward the downwind edge of the runway as would normally be the case, or toward the upwind edge of the runway? The take-home lesson: with unusual aircraft geometries, "your mileage may vary", but the content of this answer is valid for all aircraft with even a remotely conventional configuration.
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There's an exercise you can try (with a CFI) which helped me tremendously with developing the coordination and muscle memory to master crosswind landings. The exercise involves making a low approach, and applying your slip technique to "drift" back and forth from one side of the runway to the other.

There's a nice YouTube video demonstrating the maneuver. The demonstration starts near the 6 minute mark. I'd suggest watching this together with your CFI and, if they agree, giving it a try.

Pick a long, wide runway. Fly a normal pattern and final, but level off at a reasonable height, and add enough power to maintain airspeed. You don't want to be close to stall, but you don't want to be too fast either. Discuss this in advance with your CFI and agree on a target height and speed for the exercise.

During the exercise, your objective is to keep the nose aligned with the runway heading at all times. You'll constantly be adjusting the rudder to maintain this alignment, while varying your bank angle to control your lateral (side-to-side) drift.

After doing this a few times you should be able to develop a much more intuitive feel for how much "stick vs. rudder" is required to induce lateral drift. Then it's a natural step from inducing drift to counteracting it during a real crosswind landing.

Don't be discouraged: this is a very common pain point that a lot of students have to work really hard at. You just need to keep training your brain until it becomes natural. Stick with it, and you'll nail it.

Good luck!

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    $\begingroup$ I appreciate the advice! I'll show this video to my CFI and see what he thinks! It looks like a smart maneuver! $\endgroup$
    – Jay
    Commented Oct 10, 2022 at 14:33
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Besides the other answers, good ones as they are, I'm left with the obligation to remind you of the probably most important thing in landings - looking outside correctly: you need to focus your sight at the far end of the runway (or if the runway is looooong, maybe the middle of it)

Focussing on close proximity of the plane, like the aimed touchdown point, will make it harder to judge and manage control movements. Things go from bad to worse if you focus on the nose of the plane...

This may seem counterintuitive, and even difficult at first, but once your get this right, things should get easier to handle.

If you already are doing this correctly, just go with what the other answers suggest. You got this, just practise.

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    $\begingroup$ ^^^This.^^^ Learning when to shift your view from the touchdown point to the far end of the runway is the real key to better landings. Work into that mental checklist along with reducing power and starting the the flare. Don't worry about small motion as long as you're moving straight down the runway and controlling the sink rate. $\endgroup$
    – Gerry
    Commented Oct 11, 2022 at 22:12
  • $\begingroup$ For me personally this was probably the most difficult thing to learn, and ended up being the biggest "improver" of landing performance. $\endgroup$
    – Jpe61
    Commented Oct 12, 2022 at 7:55
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You are probably over-thinking it, it's pretty normal so don't worry about it. Flying with crossed controls feels weird, and when you get close to the ground the picture looks wrong. You need to get used to that picture, holding it until you touch. There's no special sauce, it's just practice.

Don't worry about side-loads, it's designed to take it and you aren't going to break anything. It's far more important not to drop it on the runway. If you are doing the sideslip method correctly you won't have much in the way of side-load anyway, and if you aren't perfect it will not cause damage. Keep looking at the far end of the runway, and the centerline as far out in front of you as you can see. That centerline is your guide, if it's not moving left or right then you have the rudder right and there's nothing you need to do.

If you are a little bit right or left of it that's okay at first, once you get your technique down you'll be better at getting on centerline. The important thing is that you aren't going any further left or right of the centerline, and this is where you modify the rudder, if the centerline (in the distance) starts to move to the left put in a little left rudder, if it starts to move right squeeze in a bit of right rudder. Make small-ish adjustments rather than coarse changes, and keep the wing at the same angle.

Keep in mind you can practice this technique without a crosswind, it's used for flapless landings in many airplanes, talk to your instructor about trying it.

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Perhaps having a motorcycle and no car helped me, but I never had any problem with this when I was taking lessons. As far as I remember it felt natural right from the beginning.

(When landing, do you tip to the side in your seat in order to be perpendicular to the runway? If so, don't. You and the plane should be as one, not you and the runway.)

You seem to be too aware of the individual controls involved in this.
Your hands and feet should automatically do what is necessary without your thinking about it.
(When you're running and turn a corner, do you consciously think about how much you need to bend your knees to keep one leg shorter than the other in order to lean to the side and turn exactly the right amount?)

Just concentrate on the goal: the plane's being lined up with the runway.

That you happen to be tipped to one side or the other is irrelevant.

That, when you touch-down, you'll be riding on one wheel is irrelevant.

All I can suggest is to practice flying in unusual attitudes and getting a feel for how to maintain them.

And certainly when landing, start and maintain a side slip long before you need to.
By the time you get near the runway you will already be somewhat comfortable with it.

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