Gone With The Wind
Sky Manor Airport and crosswinds. They go together like aviation and money or the FAA and paperwork. There is usually some kind of crosswind when landing here, especially on Runway 25. We ought to give out certificates like they do at the airport on Kauai in Hawaii. With light winds and on a nice weather weekend day, we’ll have several dozen aircraft fly-in for breakfast or lunch. As the wind speed cranks and shifts to the north, the number of fly-in aircraft goes down. And go-arounds are not at all uncommon because of windy surprises. The less seasoned pilots are "gone with the wind."
The worst crosswinds for turbulence are anything from the Northwest to the Northeast; particularly landing on Runway 25 with a Northwest to North wind sustained around 10 knots with gusts to the upper teens.
The excitement starts on short final. Two parallel hangar rows near the approach end of 25 aim like a rifle at the approach area. Winds passing between, around and over them causes unpredictable turbulence that you have to be ready for. You could get an updraft, downdraft or combinations thereof. The two hangars also create a "venturi effect" causing a burst of wind speed over a short area also known as ‘wind shear.’ Once past the hangars, on very short final, the ramp area opens up which controls the unpredictable turbulence a bit but then you have a huge wind shadow and more turbulence created by the trees and main airport building. After this point, the landscape thins out and opens up with more predictable crosswinds. In short, you will be flying the aircraft aggressively all the way to touchdown which should be either right at the approach end of 25 or past the main building complex where the trees fall back and the landscape opens up. The worst thing you can do is be slow and just ready to touch down as you come abeam the main building turbulence. Exactly what the plane will do is unpredictable.
In a sustained direct crosswind, it is even better to consider landing on runway 7, even if you momentarily have a quartering tailwind. You are landing with more open landscape that controls the variability of your crosswind inputs and runway 7 runs uphill for three-quarters of its length, helping you to slow down. As an added benefit, runway 7 turns off right into the transient parking area for the restaurant so you can enjoy that "$100 dollar hamburger" with a deserved feeling of accomplishment.
Instructing here, the windsock is not just scenery telling everyone it’s an airport. When the winds are strong and gusty, I look at it several times to give me a clue as to which runway would be best. And while on final, I will look at it several times to keep windy surprises to a minimum.
And today, Saturday, January 14, 2012, was certainly one of those days.