Bug the Wind

The heading bug is a great flying tool, particularly when you’re flying IFR. But whether you have your instrument ticket or not, the heading bug can also be quite helpful on the ground on windy days, in any airplane, but especially if you’re flying a taildragger.

After you check the ATIS, set the heading bug to the broadcast wind direction and use it as a quick reference of where the wind is coming from. Unless your heading indicator is slaved, you also need to make sure that the instrument is set to the correct magnetic heading. Now the heading bug can be used to help you make proper wind correction control inputs during taxi. No matter which direction you’re turning to on the ground, the same rules apply.

If the heading bug is on the upper half of the heading indicator (indicating a headwind), turn the controls toward the bug and keep the elevator in a neutral position. If the heading bug is on the lower half of the instrument (indicating a tailwind), turn away from the bug and bring the elevator down by pushing the yoke or stick forward.

Once you’re ready for takeoff, unless you have reset the heading bug for the initial departure heading, make sure that the wind direction bug is on the upper half of the heading indicator as a quick indication that you’re taking off into the wind. It is never a good idea to take off with a tailwind as the ground roll can increase dramatically even with a few knots on the tail.

Before using this technique, you must realize that winds can shift quickly. If there is a windsock in sight it is worth confirming that the wind is still blowing from the same direction as when the ATIS or AWOS was last issued before relying too much on what the wind direction bug tells you.

Pia Bergqvist joined FLYING in December 2010. A passionate aviator, Pia started flying in 1999 and quickly obtained her single- and multi-engine commercial, instrument and instructor ratings. After a decade of working in general aviation, Pia has accumulated almost 3,000 hours of flight time in nearly 40 different types of aircraft.

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