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How windy is too windy?

Updated: Aug 2, 2019

A friend recently sent me a video of a student pilot flying a Jabiru J230 with his instructor in extremely rough conditions. The wind is 18kts gusting to 30kts with moderate to severe turbulence forecast below 5,000ft. The wind direction is 270 degrees and they are using runway 26, so it is fairly close to runway heading.

From watching the video, I think that the student is feeling uncomfortable and even the instructor doesn't seem to be entirely convinced they should be up there. That is just my take on the video and perhaps others will see it differently.

There is enough turbulence to chuck them out of their seats on a few occasions and at times the airspeed is varying by 20kts.

Everyone has their own personal limits. Personally, I would not fly in those conditions and for instructing my limits are lower again.

In the clubhouse, I sometimes hear pilots talking about conditions they have flown in and I have no doubt that they are often exaggerated. I make a point of discussing with my students what is appropriate to their ability and experience level.

I teach on the Ikarus C42. The maximum demonstrated crosswind is 15kts. Would I take a student flying with a 15kt crosswind? No. What if the wind picked up? I would be out of limits. Could the student handle 15kts when they gain their licence? Probably not so why should I show them that it is acceptable to fly in those conditions? I usually say that we are looking for a maximum crosswind component of 12kts, less if gusty.

Do lighter aircraft have lower crosswind capabilities? No. Crosswind capability is a function of rudder authority and approach speed. A Cessna 152 has a maximum demonstrated crosswind of 12kts, which is significantly lower than the C42. The PA28 Warrior has a maximum demonstrated crosswind of 17kts, yet the Savannah microlight can take 29mph! Though the heavier aircraft may have more inertia and therefore may be thrown around a bit less in turbulence.

What are your personal limits? What is the maximum crosswind you have taken or would take? Let me know your thoughts.

See the video below.

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