Ask the Captain: How do airplanes handle the stress of landing in strong crosswinds?

Question: Planes making a sideways landing in a strong crosswind make for remarkable videos. How does the airplane landing gear handle the added stress of such landings? Is there a risk of loss of control once the airplane comes into contact with the runway? Is it much more difficult for the pilot to realign the airplane on the runway after touchdown?

– Thomas Payto, Tarpon Springs, Florida

Answer: If you look carefully, the airplane will yaw before touchdown to be more closely aligned with the runway. The pilot uses the rudder to reduce the crab angle just prior to touchdown. This reduces the sideload on the main landing gear.

During certification flights the manufacturers demonstrate crosswind landing without yawing prior to touchdown to test the capability of the landing gear. While the gear is designed to take the load, it is a lot of force.

Pilots practice crosswind landing frequently. It is a necessary skill for a professional pilot.

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