Wind? What Wind!
I suppose we have to put it down to Global Warming, but it strikes me that more often than not these days the wind is blowing directly across the strip. Whatever happened to those prevailing south westerly winds we used to get?

This is a bit of a bummer, but it’s all good for left thumb practice! So what’s the secret? Well, of course, there isn’t one – just a bit of thought and some common sense.

Take off
If you are flying a relatively small and lightly loaded model the safest and best way is to take off across the strip directly into wind, but what if the wind is directly onto your back? A bit of a compromise will be necessary here if we are to avoid flying close to other pilots after take-off. There are two things we can do to help. One is to make sure when flying we are all standing relatively close together at the “pits” end of the pilots strip. This will leave as much clear space as possible for take-off. The other thing, if you are the pilot, is to be very aware of what is likely to happen during and immediately after take-off. On the ground, and certainly until flying speed is reached the model will want to weathercock into the wind – a particular problem with a high wing tail dragger. Will this alter the course towards other pilots? If so you might like to think about where the take-off run should start. If the model has any dihedral and takes off even slightly out of wind, it will be particularly prone to being rolled as the wind gets under the wing, so be prepared!

With a “normal” weight model with no dihedral i.e. a Wot 4 or larger, you can get to grips with a crosswind properly, and it’s great fun trying to perfect the technique. Be aware though, that during the run it will still want to weathercock and may bring the take-off path directly towards you and the other pilots. Think about it before you start, and definitely don’t just whack the throttle open – take it gently! Start the run slowly. If it’s a trike undercart there should be no problem, but with a tail dragger you will need a fair bit of “up” to keep the tail wheel on the ground so you can steer. As the speed builds up, gradually open the throttle and let the tail rise. You’ll normally be used to having to add a bit of right rudder at this point, but in a cross wind it might have to be left. Think this through before you start. Once off the ground, let the speed build up before you climb away. At this point you’ve got two choices: You can let the model climb away keeping it on track with the ailerons and letting it appear to be crabbing, or you can hold a bit of rudder on (stick pushed in the “down wind” direction), correcting with a bit of aileron. The first method is normal of course, but for an added challenge try the second and see if you can make the effect of the wind seem to disappear! – A bit silly maybe, but quite impressive.

This is a bit trickier to do neatly. If the wind is coming from behind you, there is not only the danger of drifting into the far fence, but also of swinging after touchdown. The last thing you need is to land short and then career towards the flight line, so plan to land half way along the strip. This way if it swings after landing there will hopefully be no one in the way!

If the wind is in your face, the plane will want to drift over your head. Nip this in the bud and don’t be afraid to go round again. If the plane gets on the wrong side of you things will go pear shaped very quickly! Again, aim to land a bit further down the strip than normal.

As with take-off, there are two ways of approaching things. Whichever way you choose to do it, the aim is to land with no sideways drift as the wheels touch. This is vital with a large model where it is possible to do serious damage to the undercarriage if you get it wrong. (Yes, I’ve done it!)

The first (and normal passenger aircraft way) is to approach without any rudder, just steering the right course, and letting the model come towards you in an apparent side slip. (It’s not really side-slipping, but this is what it will look like from the ground). Just before touchdown straighten the model with the rudder, correcting with ailerons as necessary. Don’t over flare and keep the speed a little higher than normal. If you get it right the wheels will not scuff and you’ll have cracked it! The problem with this method is that at the last minute you really have a lot to think about all at the same time, but if you get it right it can be very satisfying.

I tend to cheat, and use method two, as it’s not quite so critical at the last moment. As you approach, add a bit of rudder away from the wind direction. Hold this on all the way down and fly the model on ailerons in the normal way. You’ll need to correct the track with a bit of aileron in the opposite direction to the rudder – ie the controls crossed. (yes, it is actually side-slipping now, but this time it won’t appear to be!) Again, keep the speed a little higher than normal. If you get it right the wheel nearest to the wind direction should touch down first.

So there we have it. Next time there is a nasty cross wind, don’t leave the model in the car, treat it as an opportunity to practise something a bit different!