Crosswind Takeoffs and Landings

Even with a brisk crosswind blowing across the runway, many pilots are reluctant (or neglect) to use all of the available flight controls during crosswind takeoffs and landings.

As the FAA Airplane Flying Handbook explains:

The technique used during the initial takeoff roll in a crosswind is generally the same as the technique used in a normal takeoff roll, except that the pilot must apply aileron pressure into the crosswind. This raises the aileron on the upwind wing, imposing a downward force on the wing to counteract the lifting force of the crosswind; and thus preventing the wing from rising…

While taxiing into takeoff position, it is essential that the pilot check the windsock and other wind direction indicators for the presence of a crosswind. If a crosswind is present, the pilot should apply full aileron pressure into the wind while beginning the takeoff roll. The pilot should maintain this control position, as the airplane accelerates, and until the ailerons become effective in maneuvering the airplane about its longitudinal axis. As the ailerons become effective, the pilot will feel an increase in pressure on the aileron control. (6-6)

Here’s a short video that shows this technique in action. During a recent coast-to-coast flight in my Beechcraft A36 Bonanza, I departed Portland, ME (KPWM) with a strong crosswind from the right.

The goal while landing, as described in the FAA Private Pilot ACS is to:

Touch down at a proper pitch attitude with minimum sink rate, no side drift, and with the airplane’s longitudinal axis aligned with the center of the runway. (Task IV. Takeoffs, Landings, and Go-Arounds)

When landing with a crosswind, you must also apply and hold aileron inputs into the wind while using rudder and elevator pressures to track the centerline, keep the aircraft aligned with the runway, and touch down in the proper pitch attitude.

Here are two short videos from the same trip that show this technique in action, first at Bradford, PA (KBFD) and then at Nashua, NH (KASH).

Flying the Blake Arrival at Boeing Field

Ride along as I return to Boeing Field (KBFI) after a quick stop for fuel at the Shelton-Sanderson airport (KSHN), southwest of Seattle.

I set up for the Blake Arrival, a VFR procedure that begins over Blake Island, which lies about 8 miles west of Boeing Field.

The VFR departure and arrival routes for Boeing Field are described on the reverse side of the Seattle terminal area chart, the so-called VFR Flyway Planning Chart.

I have created more detailed descriptions of each departure and arrival route, available as a PDF in my Aviation Documents folder at OneDrive.

The Blake Island Arrival is a “south arrival” for traffic inbound from the west. It’s used when Runways 14L and 14R are active. It begins over Blake Island at 2000-2500 ft to remain below the Class B shelf in the area. You then fly direct toward Lincoln Park, just north of the Fauntleroy Ferry dock, descending to cross the shoreline at 1500 ft, then continuing down to 1000 ft, taking care to remain below and clear of the overlying Class B airspace.

Boeing Tower usually directs you to fly a right base leg for runway 14R, but sometimes, to sequence you with other traffic, ATC needs to put you on a right downwind.

Or, as happened on this day, changes your runway assignment to 14L.

ILS at Boeing Field (KBFI)

After flying a low approach almost to minimums at Bremerton (KPWT), I made the quick return to Boeing Field (KBFI) via radar vectors to the ILS RWY 14R, where the weather was better, with a ceiling of about 1000 ft. and good visibility below the clouds. As you’ll see, it’s a moderately busy flight given the short distance and the usual challenge of fitting into the flow at KBFI.

On this late-November afternoon, however, I enjoyed the rare treat of cloud surfing above a solid undercast, with blue skies above, at least for a few minutes. Keen observers will even spot Mt. Baker in the distance as I turn northeast.

For more information about the technique of setting a course to a fix, which I often use when flying the ILS at KBFI, see Setting a Course v. Vectors to Final. To learn about annotating electronic IFR charts, see Annotating IFR Charts.

Short Approach Demonstration

Here’s an exercise that I do with all students, regardless of the type of airplane they fly. It’s a variation on the power-off 180 approach and landing that commercial students learn.

Most of the goals are similar to those for that task, but the focus here isn’t on the standard in the commercial pilot ACS—landing within 200 ft of the designated touchdown spot.

Instead, I like to do this exercise—after practicing lift-vector exercises, slow-flight, and accelerated stalls—to help pilots observe and experience the high descent rate, the required flight path, the effect of drag, and the importance of maintaining energy while flying a close-in base turn and final.

The experience, without the stress and distractions of running (simulated) emergency checklists, etc., also helps pilots learn to shift their focus from the runway threshold to new touchdown point, which changes as you add drag or as the wind affects the airplane. After observing and practicing this maneuver, you can add the simulated emergency elements and practice other details, such as moving the prop control to low RPM.

While demonstrating and practicing this skill, I aim initially for the middle of the runway—or in a real emergency, a field, road, or other emergency landing surface—and work back from there if altitude, wind, and other factors allow. Initially aiming for the middle of the target creates a safety margin. If you misjudge your descent, the wind, use of drag, etc., odds are you can still make it to the chosen landing surface. Should you land long, at least when you roll off the end, you’re at taxi speed and decelerating on the ground. The airplane might not look pretty when you stop, but you’ll survive. That’s better than stalling or dropping a wing and cartwheeling or lawn-darting into obstacles short of the runway.

As you can see in this example, I was landing on a 6000 ft runway. On that day, the wind was light and variable, with no significant headwind component. I did not brake aggressively (hardly at all, in fact) after touchdown. Still, I made a turnoff with some 3000 ft of runway remaining.

Air-to-Air Video Shoot

I recently flew a Cessna T182 Skylane for an air-to-air video and photo shoot around Seattle for Galvin Flying (, a flight school where I instruct.

This video, edited for time and to remove camera jiggles, focus changes, and other hiccups, shows some of the raw footage collected during the flight.

The photo ship was a Cessna T206, which is also in the Galvin fleet. Enjoy the views of the Seattle area as we flew on a late summer afternoon.

A photo flight is not the same as a traditional formation flight. The photographer directs the subject airplane to move forward and back, up and down, and in and out to capture images of the airplane and background that best suit the goals of the session. (To see a master of the genre at work, visit Jessica I have flown the camera plane for several photo flights with Jessica.)

Of course, like a traditional formation flight, a thorough briefing and plan is required, and formation flying skills and experience are required to be safe and to achieve the goals of the project.

An Overlooked ForeFlight Feature: “Instruments”

In my experience flying with students and a wide range of other pilots, I’ve noticed that most pilots haven’t customized the information fields at the bottom of the map page in ForeFlight (the most popular electronic flight bag (EFB) among general aviation pilots).

ForeFlight calls these six fields the Instrument Panel, and like the gauges and avionics installed in the aircraft’s instrument panel, the blocks of information can show you a variety of information, updated in real time (if your tablet has an internal GPS or is connected to a GPS) that complements data from the panel. Even if you fly only VFR in a basic airplane, the ForeFlight instruments can provide constant updates, for example, of your position relative to a VOR.

Other EFB apps, such as Garmin Pilot and FlyQ, offer a similar feature. For the details, see the guide for the app that you use.

I typically display a set of information that I find useful while flying IFR. I have multiple ways to display current groundspeed, distance to the next waypoint, etc. in the panel, so in ForeFlight I typically show:

  • Flight Time (time since takeoff)
  • ETA at the destination and/or ETE to the destination
  • Current climb gradient (ft/nm)–especially useful during IFR departures
  • ID and bearing/distance information from the nearest navaid (VOR or NDB)
  • Bearing/distance from the nearest airport
  • Nearest altimeter setting (useful for VFR flights)

You can choose from many other options, depending how you fly and the instruments and avionics available in your panel. Foreflight describes the Instrument Panel feature and the options in the Pilot’s Guide. The current list of available instruments appears below.

ForeFlight Instrument Panel Options

To learn more about the Foreflight Instrument Panel, see the Pilot’s Guide to ForeFlight Mobile 

Seattle to Pasco: A Scenic Flight

Mostly clear skies—except for smoke from the many wildfires in the Pacific Northwest—tempted me to fly across the Cascades to show how quickly and dramatically the scenery changes during even a relatively short flight in this part of the U.S.

This early morning takeoff from runway 32L at Boeing Field (KBFI) includes views of the Seattle skyline as I climb and turn southeast to join the V2 airway toward Ellensburg and then on to Pasco (KPSC), largest of the so-called Tri-Cities in central WA along the Columbia River.

I explain how the CBAIN ONE RNAV departure works at Boeing Field, and I outline my planned route across the mountains into the arid south-central part of Washington state. Although the battery in the wingtip camera didn’t last for the entire trip, you still get a good view of the approach and landing at Pasco, which has become an increasingly busy passenger terminal for regional airlines.


Ride along on this typical IFR flight from Boeing Field (KBFI) in Seattle to visit Pacific Coast Avionics at Aurora, OR (KUAO), south of Portland. The video (link below) includes ATC communications and shows the rhythm of a typical IFR flight: Clearance, Takeoff and Departure, Enroute, Descent, and Approach.

As you’ll see in the video, I filed a preferred route used for low-altitude IFR traffic between the Seattle and Portland areas. I also pass along tips for copying IFR clearances and ATIS/AWOS information.

Leaving KBFI, I flew the NRVNA ONE departure, an RNAV procedure. At KUAO, I flew the RNAV (GPS) RWY 35 approach to get below a solid cloud layer that topped out at around 4000 ft.

I hope you enjoy the views of cloud surfing along the way as I use the Garmin G500 TXi, GTN 750Xi, and GFC 600 autopilot.

Video of the return flight from KUAO to KPWT (for fuel) is here.

Flying an Approach in Visual Conditions

My instrument students often hear me quote a witticism attributed to Yogi Berra: “You can observe a lot by just watching.”

Early in their instrument training, I have IFR students fly a few approaches in visual conditions. If the airplane has an autopilot that can fly approaches, we let the autopilot track the procedure. The exercise helps them correlate the indications in the cockpit with the world outside, and when they fly a precision approach that can take them down to 200 ft. above the ground, they see how close an ILS glideslope or GPS LPV glidepath can bring you to trees and other obstacles as you descend toward the runway. That view helps them understand how critical it is not to descend below the glideslope or glidepath.

The video below shows that view as I fly an RNAV (GPS) approach with LPV minimums that match those for a category one ILS–200 ft. AGL and one-half mile visibility.

And don’t skip ahead–you’ll miss an Easter egg as I taxi parallel to runway 14R at Boeing Field.