Aircraft neatly stops in the mid Air during an Airshow. Pilot skills at its best. Aircraft in flight are subject to the direction of the winds in which the aircraft is operating. For example, an aircraft in flight that is pointed directly north along its longitudinal axis will, generally, fly in that northerly direction. However, if there is a west wind, the actual track of the aircraft will be slightly to the east of north. If the aircraft was landing north on a north-south runway, it would need to compensate for this easterly drift caused by the west crosswind.
XB-52 performing a crab landing having nose pointed toward incoming wind, but undercarriage aligned along the runway
In situations where a crosswind is present, the aircraft will drift laterally as it approaches the runway. This drift poses significant safety issues because safe operation of the undercarriage requires the body and track of the aircraft to be aligned with the runway at touch down. The landing gear designs of the "pioneer era" 1909 Bleriot XI, and the much later Cold War B-52 strategic jet heavy bomber, were designed and each built with an unusual feature to counteract the problem: with the B-52, all four of its landing gear bogies could be steered, allowing the aircraft to land with the wheels facing the direction of travel even if the nose was not pointed in the same direction. The Bleriot XI had pivoting main gear legs, which passively allowed the main gear wheels to castor together about each of their vertical axes as a unit to allow small-angle crosswind landings, with bungee-cord loaded rigging members between the lower ends of the main wheel forks, to bring the wheels back to a "directly-ahead" orientation after touchdown.
If the crosswind landing is not executed safely, the aircraft may experience wingstrike, where a wing hits the runway.
This sideslip crosswind technique is to maintain the aircraft's heading aligned with the runway centerline. The initial phase of the approach is flown using the Crab technique to correct for drift. The aircraft heading is adjusted using rudder and ailerons to align with the runway. This places the aircraft at a constant sideslip angle, which its natural stability will tend to correct. Sufficient rudder and aileron must be applied continuously to maintain the sideslip at this value. The dihedral action of the wings has a tendency to cause the aircraft to roll, so aileron must be applied to check the bank angle.
With a slight residual bank angle, a touchdown is typically accomplished with the upwind main wheels touching down just before the downwind wheels. Excessive control must be avoided because over-banking could cause the engine nacelle or outboard wing flap to contact the runway/ground.
In strong crosswind conditions, it is sometimes necessary to combine the crab technique with the sideslip technique. This technique is also used whenever the aircraft is too high on approach, and there needs to be a rapid reduction of altitude in order to conduct a safe landing
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