Taxiing In Winter Winds

A simpler way to remember the technique.

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Chris Gall

Winter operations involve a lot of adjustments. Just getting to and from the runway becomes more of a factor in our planning, and requires some attention. Taxiways might be icy, leading to reduced steering and braking effectiveness. And just when we have less control where the rubber meets the road, winter winds are often stronger, gustier and less predictable.

It takes hands and feet to stay on your toes when taxiing in windy conditions. With a direct crosswind, the technique is to deflect the upwind aileron upward to spoil lift on the wing facing the wind. That's pretty intuitive. You want to keep that wing down. Meanwhile, your feet will be busy overcoming the weathervane effect of the wind wanting to push the tail around. You'll be using nose wheel steering, rudder deflection and, if need be, brakes. Of course, there will reach a point when the wind is just too strong — especially if the runway is slick from snow, slush or ice. Then the best technique is to defeat the wind by using tiedown ropes — or better yet, a heated hangar and a cup of something warm.

For taxiing nosewheel airplanes in quartering crosswinds, our primary instruction manuals showed diagrams for the best way to position the controls, but one of my instructors taught me a rule that is much easier to remember. He said, "For a quartering tailwind, 'dive' away from it [up aileron on the upwind wing, forward pressure on the elevators]. A quartering headwind? 'Bank' toward the wind to keep the upwind wing down — but keep the elevators basically neutral." And it also pays to keep a corner of an eye on the windsock, because the wind direction can shift 90 degrees in a heartbeat.

I have little trouble remembering this technique. Maybe it's because I'm envisioning the airplane as already flying.

Call to action: If you have any tips of your own you'd like to share, or have any questions about flying technique you'd like answered, send me a note at enewsletter@flyingmagazine.com. We'd love to hear from you.