Crosswind Landing

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By Shane Ellison

I was on a cross country from Los Angeles to Durango, CO with my family. We stopped in FLG, AZ to fuel my ’62 M20C and let my little guy stretch.

I was expecting the typical crosswind landing at 00C, and told myself if it was too fast I’d opt for the larger runway 5 miles East. 30 min out I listened to ATIS, a bit nervous, like awaiting sentencing. Wind and magnetic compass going awry, gusts were at 29 knots and sweeping directly across my landing path. Shit.

My fearless 10 yo daughter was up front, my 5 yo son and wife in back. I took the GPS off my yoke for full control and danced on the peddles like an athlete stretches before the big game…Not typical, my wife asked what I was doing…

“Crosswinds,” I replied curtly.

Once in the pattern, it got really bumpy on base leg. I set up to come in high to avoid any consequences of an unexpected downdraft. On final I pumped in full flaps so I could set down nice and slow on my Mooney legs (standard procedure)…

I was all over the place at that point, but hoped it would smooth out in ground effect. If not, I was ready to go full power, gear up as quickly as possible. I reminded myself nose down for airspeed, not nose up for altitude (full load and high attitude don’t mix), which is what feels instinctively right, but isn’t. I also thought back to what my flight instructor, Ron, taught about landing – be ready for anything.

Almost down, a gust pushed me over the grass on flair…Plan B…

The jolt of power instinctlively forced my wife to yell, “what happened.” Daughter calmly said, “we are doing a go-around, papa was off the runway…”

Bigger runway was sounding nice. But I wanted to see how the plane handled on downwind and base with no flaps. Once there, the plane settled in much better.

On final, I felt the remarkable aerodynamics of Mooney first hand. I was sticking my crab into the wind like velcro at the higher speed and sharper configuration, which showed I didnt need the larger space.

Straightened out and nailed it.

Wife wanted to marry me all over again.

Still though, I was out of my comfort zone/safe minimums.

Zef reminded me that such conditions are a game of statistics and that exceptions never make rules. So, still today, its all about my glide slope and handling on final that dictates whether or not I can land safe, not a previous lucky break. If he had not taught me that, I may have had a skewed sense of reality, which carries stiff penalties in flying.

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