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When on Final Approach to Land, Learn How to Work Out a Cross Wind Component in Seconds
When coming into land, it can be difficult to quickly develop a crosswind component. I know 2 quick methods to do this and once you understand them, choose the one that works best for you.
The first is known as the clock code and assumes that any wind more than 60 degrees off the runway is a full wind. So if you’re landing on runway 27, for example, which is 270 degrees north, if the wind direction is below 210 or above 330 degrees, it’s considered a strong crosswind. So if the wind is 200 at 15 knots, that’s a 15 knot crosswind.
Now, to figure out how much crosswind there is between those 60 degrees on either side of the runway course, imagine that the number of degrees off course is the number of minutes around the clock face. Then imagine how far away the clock face is and that part of the clock face is the proportion of wind strength.
So if the wind is 20 degrees off course, say 290 at 30 knots, then 20 minutes is one third of the clock face, so the crosswind component is one third of 30 knots, which is 10 knots.
If the runway is 03, which is 030 degrees, and the wind is 070 at 20 knots, that is 40 degrees off course, and 40 minutes around the clock is almost three-quarters of the clock face, so the crosswind is three-quarters 20, or 15 knots.
Since the strength and direction of the wind is constantly changing, you don’t need to be very precise in your calculations. When the wind has weakened to about 30 degrees, it is half strength, so roughly half of the wind strength is the crosswind component. 45 degrees off is 3/4 of the wind strength and 60 degrees or more is full strength.
Another easy way to work out the crosswind and headwind component is to use this simple math formula.
To calculate the crosswind. If the wind is 30 degrees from the nose, then it is.5 wind strength, 45 degrees down.7 wind strength, by 60 degrees it is.9 wind strength and if 90 degrees, then obviously full strength. This also applies to cross-country flights and developing a crosswind component when landing.
For example, if the wind is 60 degrees off the runway when you come in to land, that’s 9 times the wind strength, so using simple arithmetic for a 20-knot wind, multiply 9 by 2, which is 18 knots. For a wind of 30 knots and 45 degrees off the runway, the calculation is 3 x 7, which is 21 crosswind components. If, like me, you learned multiplication tables as a child, it’s easy.
If you modify the formula, you can also use it to work out the headwind or tailwind component. So if the wind is directly at you it is full force, 30 degrees below 0.9 full, 45 degrees below 0.7 full and 60 degrees below half is half.
If it is 90 degrees, then there is no headwind or tailwind component. But remember that any strong wind affects the plane as it drifts and becoming wind actually means you have to fly a longer path than a straight one, so it always slows you down. The stronger the wind, the longer your journey will take.
If the wind is coming from behind, then the same proportions can be applied to the calculation of the tailwind component, so if it is 30 degrees from the tail, then it is .9 of the wind strength, and so on.
To calculate the yaw, you can apply this percentage to your airspeed to get the ground speed, and then interpolate the following formula to calculate the drift as well. The formula is that at an airspeed of 120 knots, half of the crosswind component is drift. But most light aircraft fly a bit slower than that and so the drift is greater. So if you are flying at 90 knots your drift is 25% greater than half the drift because 90 knots is 75% of 120 knots so you add the difference to the drift.
This method can be used to quickly calculate course and ground speed if a diversion is necessary or if you want to check your calculations after using the computer to plan a trip.
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