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Thursday, October 28, 2021

Crosswind Considerations

What’s Up by Leroy Cook

That was a pretty impressive cold front that slid through here on Sunday, leaving a display of cumulus build-ups to the east after the skies cleared behind the front. The low ceilings earlier in the day had pretty well thwarted any flying, along with the strong crosswind at the Butler runway. Some of the frosty mornings last week required priming fuel to get the engine started; it’s that time of year.

As far as transient traffic goes, we saw a Piper Cherokee on the approach Saturday, a Piper Arrow was in, a Cessna Skyhawk landed and a Cirrus SR-22 came by. Locally, Rebekah Knight took the Cessna Skyhawk out, Flight Instructor Eric Eastland did a couple of Cessna 150 training sessions and Chris Hall had the SkyDive KC Beech King Air E90 up on jump runs, until the weekend frontal passage shut them down.

I get asked now and then about “how strong does the crosswind have to be before it prevents us from landing?” Doesn’t happen, I tell them; airplanes always land…one way or the other. After all, they can’t stay up forever. Seriously, I figure 15 knots of crosswind is plenty, after which I’ll look for another airport with a more favorable runway direction and perhaps land there. If you’re feeling lucky you can try landing with 20 or 25 knots across the runway, but chances are you’ll be going around instead of landing on the first attempt.
So, why don’t we build extra runways so we can avoid the risk of a crosswind landing? With land and construction costs as they are, that isn’t likely to happen. We’re lucky to have the one runway we have. I have a picture of Butler airport in the old days, when it was 80 acres of native grass, and there were three distinct landing lanes visible, a north-south and two intersecting diagonal ones. Over at St. Louis, the Navy built Smartt Field during WW-2 as a training facility (now St. Charles County airport) with no less than eight runways arranged in an octagon shape. That pretty much eliminated the crosswind accidents in their Stearman biplanes, but concrete was cheap then and the war had to be won at any cost.

The chartered DC-9 airliner accident in Houston last week was called a “miracle” by the news media, because no one got hurt when the aborted takeoff run left the airplane a burning wreck off the end of the runway. It was not a miracle, it was a survivable outcome because the crew did what it was trained to do and the exits and escape slides functioned as designed. Safety requires preparation, and the operators were prepared.

The question from last week was about “day-glow” bright florescent paint that was a brief fad in the 1950s and 1960s. The idea was to cut down on mid-air collision risk by making planes more visible, adding bright color to wingtips and tails. Ed Robertson put the paint on his old Cessna 140 trainer, in case the government’s recommendation became a requirement. The notion was wisely called off, because the color weather- faded into dull orange in a matter of a few months. For next week, we want to know what’s unique about the Navy’s new MQ-25 tanker aircraft. You can send your answer to