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Simulator Training for strong crosswind landings

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Simulator Training for strong crosswind landings

Old 3rd Jun 2014, 03:55
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Simulator Training for strong crosswind landings

I am sure most PPRuNe readers would have seen this video of aircraft battling strong crosswind landings. I found myself watching it again in horrified fascination even though been there-done that, a few times in my career. .


A well executed landing or take off in maximum crosswinds requires excellent handling skills and most of these are learned on the job as it were. With cross-wind component landing restrictions placed on low experience first officers you wonder how will they ever get the confidence as well as the skills needed, to handle the gusty crosswind conditions evident in the video.

I believe the solution is in simulator training. The majority of today's simulator sessions are on automatic pilot with concentration on instrument approaches. This includes type ratings. Because full use of automation is mandated by most airliner operators, and indeed encouraged by Regulators and aircraft manufacturers alike, the opportunities are getting increasingly limited for crews to keep up manual handling skills.

There are some who claim crosswind landings in simulators do not accurately reflect the real thing. In other words fidelity is lacking. If so, either the simulator is not being maintained to the required fidelity standard or it is not an airline standard simulator. I'm no expert but in my airline career I have done hundreds of crosswind landings and the Boeing 737 simulators I have "flown" in crosswinds gave as near as damn it to what I have experienced outside.

IMHO it is during type rating training where the skills at crosswind landings in jet transport types should be taught in the simulator. At present, it is probable that only three or four crosswind landings are given in the whole type rating and these are rarely above 15 knots. These are patently insufficient to qualify someone to fly on line and be deemed competent to land safely in the certified maximum crosswind for the type. That may be why company limits are applied to first officers until they have attained a certain number of flying hours on type.

Basic techniques of crosswind take off and landings have been unchanged for years. Some pilots never really master the skills needed while others are naturals. But three or four crosswind landings per year in the simulator and those rarely above 15 knots, will never adequately prepare inexperienced pilots for the crosswind gusts shown in that video. It is known that handling skills have deteriorated due to the accent on full use of automation. The problem is nothing has been done, apart from lip service by operators, to seriously combat the trend.

If it is agreed that seriously strong crosswind landings are what really reveals lack or otherwise of a pilot's manual handling skills, then surely simulator trainers should give priority to increasing crosswind landing practice so that landing at maximum crosswinds eventually becomes just another ho-hum event. Type ratings should not be signed off until candidates are able to safely and consistently land at maximum certified cross-wind components. From then on regular practice at these should be rostered during recurrent training.
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Old 3rd Jun 2014, 09:31
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Thanks for a good post. I flew 707s, VC10s and 747s. Cross wind landings on the VC10 were fairly straightforward because there were no engine pods to worry about, but there was still a similar limitation on roll to prevent touching an outboard flap. The 707 was more demanding. On both types, the simulators (I am talking about the 1970s) were not good enough, so we required new captains during their command courses to land under training in cross winds in excess of 20kts. This was sometimes a particularly demanding exercise for the training captain!

On the 747, the simulators were better and we cleared captains on the simulator. This was, I believe, the right thing to do. But it was necessary also to ensure that sufficient turbulence was used too.

As centaurus has said, basic crosswind techniques have not changed over the years, they are not difficult in themselves. It is the turbulence that causes the problems. And here good simulator practice can pay dividends, with plenty of practice in very demanding conditions.

I am long retired now. I just hope airline training departments allow sufficient time for this during type training.

Last edited by Bergerie1; 3rd Jun 2014 at 09:35. Reason: spelling!!
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Old 3rd Jun 2014, 11:08
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Also retired from a wide variety of airliner types, I think Centaurus's idea would be a step in the right direction. No doubt Bergerie1 well remembers the appalling lack of realism of the visual system in the VC10 sim at Cranebank in the 1970s, but things steadily improved after that. In my latter experience, the relative realism of modern visuals was under-used for practising visual approaches on large aeroplanes (a dying art), and I'd be surprised if much has improved in 12 years in that area.

However, the problem with simulating approaches and landings in gusty crosswinds is that, in the real world, no two sets of conditions are quite the same - even in similar surface winds at the same airfield. Although I have no experience of the latest simulators (my last being the A320 of the 1990s), I doubt that they offer a diverse set of algorithms appropriate for the ground profiles of the menu of airfields, or that a random element is available. Perhaps a current trainer will comment?

If a random element is not available, my reservation is that regulars on simulators, such as the trainers themselves, are likely to learn the limited repertoire of models so well that they can anticipate precisely the direction and intensity of the next gust. If the student fails to cope with one approach, there might be a tendency to offer a second approach using the same model. If a third approach was then required, the trainer would be tempted to intervene with advice at key moments, and the exercise would therefore be of limited value. So, if a random algorithm is available, it should be used most of the time.

Don't think I'm rubbishing the idea - but it may have its limitations.
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Old 3rd Jun 2014, 15:22
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Visit a chinese sim,,they love max crosswind touch and goes until you get up/down motion sickness
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Old 3rd Jun 2014, 15:37
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Every simulator I have flown has never emulated the behaviour of the real aircraft. It seems impossible to get the yaw/roll couple correct with such large inputs. Even the FBW Airbus types don't do it well enough to be realistic and they shouldn't roll with a rudder input.
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Old 3rd Jun 2014, 15:50
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The simulator B737 I fly is pretty ok.
People who cannot manage a 30 kt crosswind in the sim, probably do bad in the aircraft as well.
When flying an aircraft, I do exact as I fly the sim. The crosswinds seem to have the same effect on my control as in the sim.
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Old 3rd Jun 2014, 16:01
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I have just done max crosswind training in the sim. In fact we did several raw data visual circuits in significantly more than the legal max. The simulator (level B 737, therefore perfectly legal for recurrent training) in my opinion simply did not accurately recreate the feel of the aircraft in a strong crosswind, or the effect of turbulence and shear between the 1000' and surface winds.
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Old 3rd Jun 2014, 16:08
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The shear and turbulence was not the question. It was the crosswind.
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Old 3rd Jun 2014, 17:35
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Looking at that posted video, shear and turb was part of the question. Flying a steady wind crosswind is pretty damn easy. What makes it so difficult on the line is the variability of direction and strength at a low level, which is inevitable with a strong crosswind at most places.
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Old 3rd Jun 2014, 22:07
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Level B simulators are simply not good enough for real in depth landing training, which is one of the reasons that they are not usable for ZFT. Level D on the other hand should be ok.

I wouldn't trust a normal Level B simulator for normal landing training, even less so for training with considerably more than the legal maximum (40 kts cross on wet and dry runways for the 737NG).
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Old 3rd Jun 2014, 22:14
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I have had the opportunity to play around with crosswinds in the 777 sim. They go up to 40 kits or so. It is a good place to start but in my opinion crosswinds in the sim are much easier than in real life.
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Old 4th Jun 2014, 01:27
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In addition to the many weaknesses in simulating crosswinds as above, the majority of systems are unable to simulate true lateral acceleration, at least for a significant period covering de-crabbing and during roll out.
Also the control input / flight path behaviours are similar to those seen when simulating engine failure after take-off; because there is no sideways Ďseat of the pantsí feeling for feedback.
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Old 4th Jun 2014, 02:31
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Flying a steady wind crosswind is pretty damn easy.
For an experienced pilot, yes. In fact I used to look forward to experiencing strong cross-winds as a challenge. But it is a completely different story for the low hour first officers that appear to be the norm in airline recruiting nowadays.

A common theme observed during crosswind landings in the 737 Level D (Full Flight) simulators, is the sight of experienced and not so experienced pilots alike making very little attempt to touch down without drift. The landings turn out OK but there is no finesse. While the Boeing FCTM talks about deliberately landing without removing drift on a slippery runway, and I can understand that technique, I am amazed at the number of times I have observed pilots plonking the aircraft sideways on dry runways without even trying to get it straight first.

It is also interesting to note that some are even seemingly unaware they still have drift on at touch down. In fact there are some pilots who for some reason cannot "see" drift. One technique to show them the drift on touch down is to "freeze" the simulator at the split-second of touch down, so that at their leisure they can see the aircraft heading and compare it to the runway heading. My guess is 90 percent touch down with 10 degrees or more of drift still in place. The usual excuse is that the FCTM allows this via the words "The airplane can land using crab only (zero sideslip) up to the landing crosswind guideline speeds" Judging by the video shown in the original post several aircraft did just that.

Earlier I mentioned that low hour pilots will inevitably show apprehension at cross wind landings until with experience they finally can hack them. Please forgive the following "war" story on my experience at my attempts at cross wind landings while flying Lincoln bombers but it shows why I have sympathy with new pilots landing their jet transports in even moderate crosswinds. Townsville in North Queensland, Australia has an 8000 ft main runway invariably cursed with a 15 knot crosswind. The Lincoln Mk 31 was a four engine bomber (bigger than the Lancaster) and known for its appalling lack of view over its long nose, and at night especially few enjoyed landing it in a crosswind. Once the tail was down there was no forward vision. During the landing run in a crosswind the Lincoln would weathercock and the rudders were none too effective so the pilot would resort to differential braking and as last resort even bursts of power from one or other of the outboard engines until the aircraft came to a stop.

I hated coming back from a long flight only to find the resident crosswind had to be faced. One fine day, a Royal Air Force pilot on exchange to the RAAF was posted to our squadron to fly the Long Nose Lincoln. He was a experienced Avro Shackleton pilot having operated both the tail-wheel Shack as well as the tricycle version. As I was the squadron QFI my job was to check him out on the Lincoln. I made a real hash of demonstrating the Lincoln crosswind crab landing to him while he looked on with a mixture of amusement and some apprehension at my terrible demo landings.

I took him up on his offer to demonstrate how he did crosswind landings in the Shackleton using the combination of decrab in the flare and touch down one wing slightly low resulting in the into wind main wheel touching first. He did the same technique perfectly in the Lincoln and I became a life long convert to that technique in all the aircraft I flew since including the 737. My confidence had been shot until that fortuitous meeting with the RAF Shackleton pilot (thanks Flt Lt Laurie Hampson).

The point I am trying to make in a rather unwieldy way, is that inexperienced first officers to jet transports will inevitably be spooked by crosswind landings, especially knowing they have a hundred plus people down the back ready to scream OMG into their mobile phones to relatives and friends on the other end. Regular training at strong crosswind landings in the appropriate level of simulator before going on line, will give new pilots to type the confidence they need and at the same time increase their basic handling skills.
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Old 4th Jun 2014, 05:49
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Cross wind landing are included in the conversion in my outfit, in line training you are very likley to get a few days with crosswinds.

Our recurrent program includes crosswind circuits every two years and they are at limits for the type and has been for years.
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Old 4th Jun 2014, 06:07
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I learnt xwind landing on pistons, then adjusted to turboprops and then jets. They don't bother me in the slightest in the aircraft.

However, maybe it's just me, but I have yet to jump in a sim in the last 10 years that can replicate a realistic landing, whether xwind or not. Not sure whether it is the visuals or the lack of "seat of the pants" feedback, or something with the control fidelity, but in my opinion it has very little bearing to how I land the real thing.
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Old 4th Jun 2014, 06:29
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The FAA issued a rule last year requiring 121 (airline) training to include gusty cross wind take offs and landings. The actual requirement doesn't go into effect until 2019 to allow the simulators to be upgraded.
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Old 4th Jun 2014, 08:51
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Hi grrowler,
Not sure whether it is the visuals or the lack of "seat of the pants" feedback
I think it is because there is no delta g in the sim (everything feels like 1 g) and there is no sensation of heading change detected by your inner ear (sim is bolted to ground on constant heading).

The big advantage of practicing anything in the sim, is that you won't die if you it up, giving you the chance to get the procedure correct.
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Old 4th Jun 2014, 09:20
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I agree about the lack of realism in the sim. I havenít flown one yet which I thought had good fidelity for crosswind training, although I should qualify that by saying they were fine for demonstrating/practicing technique, which could be polished on the real thing.

I think itís a combination of the lack of realistic turbulence, shear, wind gradient, backing/veering and ground effect, coupled with the sim model diverging from reality as the amount of sideslip increases. As these are the things that cause most of the problems with crosswind takeoffs and landings, it comes as no surprise that real life is somewhat different. Itís much easier to fly down the approach with a constant drift angle (which you could get away with in most of the sims Iíve tried) and plonk it on than to have to deal with all of the above at the same time.
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Old 4th Jun 2014, 12:51
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" ....................using the combination of decrab in the flare and touch down one wing slightly low resulting in the into wind main wheel touching first. "
I was trained to fly by the U.S. Navy where we learned everything in the classroom first and then went out in the aircraft to prove that we'd been paying attention. I'm not sure if I learned about crosswind landings before my first introductory flight or not, but certainly before my first solo a dozen or so flight hours later.

"WING DOWN INTO THE WIND ............ TOP RUDDER". This idea isn't rocket surgery, as they say. Until I took a job at a major airline, I thought it was how everyone flew airplanes. I've used it in each and every crosswind landing I've ever made; although, (sad to say) not each and every crosswind landing I've ever watched. Works in big airliners, light civilian aircraft, high performance fighters, and sailplanes. Works for take offs too.

After looking at the video twice, it's clear that many pilots don't even try to use the correct technique. Some just want to get it on the ground, crab angle and/or drift rate be damned. Others try to de-crab at just the right time hoping to plant it before the inevitable drift gets out of hand, with varying degrees of success. Quite a few come close to timing their de-crab just right but are flying too fast and then spend too long flying in ground effect (and consequently drifting) before touching down. A significant number of pilots actually use the wrong aileron input, especially on take-off, perhaps trying to steer with the yoke as you would with a car steering wheel.

I'd have to look again to be sure, but I don't recall any of them touching down with the up-wind wing intentionally held low and stabilized so as to touch down on the up-wind gear first. Certainly the majority of the landings shown result in a near wings level touch down.

The technique is nearly mechanical. One of our ........... um ............ less skilled (but very intelligent) captains used to repeat "wing down into the wind, top rudder" to himself a few times on final approach while slapping the appropriate knee so that in the flair (he explained each time) it was a simple matter of pressing the rudder with the leg which was stinging. I was never sure if he did that because he needed the crutch or if he did it to drive his F/O and F/E absolutely crazy. It certainly had the latter effect, that's for sure.

I'll say one thing after watching that video. The people who manufacture landing gear and tires are doing a terrific job ................. some pilots, not so much.
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Old 4th Jun 2014, 13:00
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The sim would be a good start for a pilot with no cross wind landing skills but the only way to be proficient at xwind landings would be doing it in the real world.

Once you have learned it you will enjoy the challenge. They take some of the boredom out of flying.
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