Home » Flight Maneuvers » Wind and performance

Wind and performance

At Springbank airport, we are very mountain effected and often have to deal with heavy winds.  Speaking of winds, we found the most amazing landing and takeoff video we have ever seen.  In this video, the brave Super Cub pilot, lands on the shoulder of a mountain in Central Nevada at 11,000 feet.  The landing on Bunker Mountain is spectacular, but the take off is even better.  You can see that his plane is equipped for rough ground landings given the large tundra tires.  These are large, low pressure tires to allow operation on rough terrain on light aircraft. And rough terrain it is, the pilot lands on a talus slope.

The description says that it was very windy on that mountain. No doubt, he was landing into the wind, which allowed a very short landing and takeoff roll.  The pilot is very skilled, you can see he dips his wing into the direction of the wind and returns to straight and level flight at the moment before touchdown.

Importance of winds to pilots

Winds are one of the most important things to understand when it comes to flying.  Pilots have a very intimate relationship with the wind, it governs our go-no go decision, most importantly in terms of our take off and landing considerations.

Why does wind affect performance? Because our aircraft relies on the difference in pressures between the lower wing and upper wing in order to obtain lift, and remember it is always the relative wind that matters. So if there is zero wind, your aircraft will require more ground roll to lift off then if there was an headwind component. Why? Because it’s the relative wind that matters. For example, recall the relationship between stalls and angle of attack.

Recall in your POH that when calculating take off distance, you reduce your ground roll according to the amount of headwind you have.  In the Cessna 172N, you decrease the ground roll by 10% for every 9 knots of headwind.  This is because the headwind adds to the flow of air over your wings, air flow that otherwise you would have to generate with power.

The high altitude would have made the take off and landing roll longer, but it appears as if the winds were sufficiently strong enough to allow a shorter roll. And I do mean short!

I found the relationship with the wind is also strong when you ride a motorcycle.  And it is a commonly known fact that many pilots do love motorcycles.



About Alicja

Learning to fly at CYBW, no 6 for aircraft movements in Canada. I live in the Rockies, economist, writer, skier, climber, obsessed with mountains & aviation!