STAYING UP WIND
by Ed Anderson
aeajr on the forums
One of the skills you must develop at a new pilot is how to keep your plane
up-wind. Regardless of how windy it is, unless it is dead calm, you will
always be dealing with the flow of the river of air. When you are new, 5
mph may feel like a windy day. Then you become confident in 5 mph and that
is a calm day. Then 8 mph is the challenge. Then you work on 10 and 12 and
who knows. I fly gliders, no motors at all, in 20 mph winds.
Regardless of how much wind you feel comfortable with, you need to be able
to keep your plane up wind. Most of the reports I read about new pilots
losing their plane include how they let it get down wind. Once the plane is
down wind from you it can be very hard to get it back, especially when your
skills are not well developed.
Very often the plane gets down wind when we are flying a circular or square
pattern. That is, you launch and fly out, into the wind. Then you are
flying across the wind where the plane will tend to drift toward you. Going
up wind the plane will move more slowly across the ground then when it comes
down wind. When this happens the plane can get past you before you have a
chance to react. Some pilots freeze when this happens and find the plane is
way down wind in short order.
Here are some tips on keeping the plane up wind.
1) Plan your turns in advance. - Before you launch, plan where your pattern
will be, in the sky. Use ground reference points, points that you do now
want to pass. NEVER plan to have the plane fly over your head. Keep it at
least 50 feet in front of you. Mark a spot on the ground in front of you
and keep in your head that the plane must never come closer to you than that
mark. If it does, you are on the verge of trouble.
2) Keep down wind runs short. - You might fly 30 seconds into the wind but
the down wind leg of that circle or square may only be 5 seconds, depending
on wind speed. Plan where you are going to make your turn. If it is a
windy day, make the turn sooner than usual. As you fly the cross wind parts
of that circle or box pattern, the plane will tend to drift down wind. So,
turn sooner to keep the plane in front of you. And make sure it does not
cross that 50 foot line from tip 1.
3) Use a figure 8 pattern rather than a circle. - Rather than using a
circular or square pattern around the field, use a figure 8. The advantage
is that the plane is flying into the wind most of the time which will make
it easier to keep it upwind. A figure 8 is nothing more than two smaller
circles, one clockwise and one counter clock wise. Using a figure 8 you can
stay up wind more easily. It is also excellent practice for left and right
4) Keep all turns into the wind. - Another approach is don't make any turns
that put your plane on a completely down wind path. Fly up wind, then turn
across the wind. As the wind tries to put the plane behind you, turn into
the wind again.
How does this work? If we think of a typical circuit around the field, we
might think of it as a box with 4 right turns; flying up wind, right turn
across wind, right turn down wind, right turn across wind, then right turn
up wind again to complete the box. Rather than doing that, try this
pattern. Fly up wind, right turn across wind, then left turn up wind, then
left turn across the wind, then right turn up wind. The cross wind legs
will tend to bring the plane back toward you.
This is called an S pattern and it eliminates all down wind turns. This
makes it much easier to stay up wind. It also eliminates all turns toward
you which avoids the issue of getting confused about which way to turn when
the plane is coming toward you fast and is about to get past you, going down
Just a few tips on how to improve your windy day flying.
I could not agree more with this,
This in my opinion is by far the best advice for a beginner. It was not until I read this particular advice that I ever got a successful flight. Every time I meet a new pilot and he asks me what I recommend I give this exact advice and they have been successful by far. When they ignored it they most certainly had a one time feeling of it in the air and then a feeling of shock when they see a brand new plane in need of repair. I still live buy this advice today and everyday. The first thing that pops in my mind if I think I am loosing control of a plane is to get her upwind and to stay there. Thanks Ed you advice is priceless
Happy flying may your crashes be limited and if they are not limited let them be cool.
If I had to do it all over again, my 2nd plane would've been an electric glider, not 5th or 6th.
IMHO, with a glider, I would've learned the flight characteristics of all my planes alot sooner, either with the wind or against it and how slow can it go and still maintain control or at least be able to predict or at least "read" the aircraft quicker to stay ahead of the plane on that great unstoppable river of air that gives us all flight no matter what you fly or hover!!!
To anyone learning for the first time.....Read, READ and re-READ AEAJR's Stickies! Sim if you can....til your hands go numb, ask questions after reading, be safe, then fly, crash, then fly, then crash some more, then fly some more......its sooooo fun!!!! I haven't crashed in forever......oops....maybe I'm doomed!!
Yeah, very good advice (though original post seems to have text duplicated 4 times Ed?)
I've been teaching someone to fly these last few weeks and although he's generally doing great this is one thing he seems to constantly struggle with, his circuits seem to gradually drift downwind. Always turning into wind is a good idea, rather like flying on the slope, I'll suggest it to him.
Thanks Jet. Don't know how I got multiple copies and did not notice. I fixed it.
[QUOTE=JetPlaneFlyer;856577]Yeah, very good advice (though original post seems to have text duplicated 4 times Ed?)
I've been teaching someone to fly these last few weeks and although he's generally doing great this is one thing he seems to constantly struggle with, his circuits seem to gradually drift downwind. Always turning into wind is a good idea, rather like flying on the slope, I'll suggest it to him.[/QUOTE]
That is a very good tip. I have used that often with new pilots.
This title, and post really brought back memories of sailboarding in my younger days... It was really an interesting lesson standing there flying that 16 foot tall wing . you feel right in your hands what that wing is doing. I defiantly learned what a wing does when you get an angle of attack wrong,, and it suddenly bucks and shudders ... possibly ripping you off the board. I learned to fly gliders as a later hobby , and part of me understood what smooth transitions , momentum, and angle of attack mean't. from flying that sail...
Some great times in both hobbies.
Wish i was still young enough to sail in high winds !