How to Become a Master at Cross wind Landings

In this article, we describe what constitutes a crosswind, the difficulties associated with landing in crosswinds, and how you can become a professional at the art of cross wind landings.


Many ab-initio pilots find the most difficult part of their training to be mastering their landings. After many practice sessions, they may have finally built the confidence and ability to land the aircraft not only safely, but smoothly (more often than not). Then comes the time when their instructor will introduce them to the crosswind component and crosswind landings, and most students at this point will feel as though they’re back at square one.

With crosswind landing competency in most countries being a mandatory requirement for a student to complete their first solo, this can leave many pre-solo students who struggle with them feeling unmotivated, with no end in sight. Fear not though, if this is you, in this article, we have put together an in-depth guide to how to simplify crosswind landings and master them in the shortest time possible.

cross wind landing danger
There are 3 components of wind, from an aviation perspective: a head wind, a tailwind and a cross wind.
Photo Credit:

What is a Cross wind?

There are 3 components of wind, from an aviation perspective. A headwind comes from in front of the aircraft, therefore slowing it down. A tailwind is the opposite, coming from behind the aircraft and pushing it through the air. A crosswind is that component of the wind that comes from the side of the aircraft, causing it to be pushed off of its planned track if the pilot does not adequately correct for it with flight controls. The University of British Columbia provides more information about crosswinds on its website1.

“When it comes to crosswind landings, there are a couple methods you can use: crab, and wing-low. And there are advantages and disadvantages to both. They’re really the same method as you touch down, but the differences come down to when you start your slip.” 7

Why are Cross wind landings different from regular landings?

As mentioned, a crosswind requires a pilot to adjust their heading by an appropriate angle into the wind (known as drift) for the aircraft to stay on track. This means that not only the landing, but the approach itself (including the normal approach speed), is a little different from normal.

A technique known as “crabbing” is required on approach, meaning the runway sits slightly to the left or right of the pilot with one wing forward (with reference to the track). This requires extra coordination and attention from the pilot to be managed effectively and safely, leading to an uneventful landing.

The landing itself also differs from a regular landing, in airliners, due to this crab method. Depending on the aircraft and its landing gear, many airliners touch down in this “crabbed” or sideways position, and then utilize either rudder or swiveling landing gear to align with the runway centerline after touch down. Some typical crosswind landings in an airliner can be seen in this video2.

While the title and some of the footage may be alarming, remember that all airline pilots are highly trained in these maneuvers and if they have any doubt about their ability to land the aircraft, they will conduct a missed approach.

In most light aircraft, this crabbing technique is ceased upon commencement of the landing flare (transition from descent to level flight over the runway), requiring the pilot to employ a technique known as “cross-controls.” Put simply, cross-controlling means if the pilot’s hands move left, their feet must move right, and vice versa. Read on to find out exactly how this is achieved.

cross wind, crabbing method
A crosswind requires a pilot to adjust their heading by an appropriate angle into the wind (known as drift) for the aircraft to stay on track.

How do you land an aircraft in a cross wind?

The best way to learn crosswind landings is similar, in essence, to learning normal landings: by trying not to land at all! When learning to fly in light aircraft, if they have a good instructor, every student should be taught to “hold the aircraft off the ground” for as long as possible for a smooth touchdown.

The same is true for crosswind landings, with a little extra flare (pardon the pun). The idea is still to “float” along the runway as close as possible without touching down, only with a crosswind it should be done with the aircraft in a slip3 to the left or right. This is achieved via the aforementioned cross-controlling technique: the airplane remains aligned with the airplane’s ground track or runway centreline through the use of ailerons4 into the wind and the nose is kept straight with rudder5 inputs in the opposite direction. With the aircraft in a slip, one wheel will be lower than the other and the aim of the game is to touch down on this wheel first, followed by the second main wheel, and finally, the nose wheel. This is also known as a wing low method. It works well on smaller aircraft but on larger aircraft, you can risk hitting the wing tip so you tend to do the crab approach and then straighten it in the flare.

cross wind landings, small aircraft
Crosswind landing competency is mandatory in most countries, for a student to complete their first solo.

“When you’re landing in a crosswind, flaps usually help. That’s because flaps help stabilize your plane, making it easier to fly all the way to touchdown.”

Cross wind Landings Practice Exercises

Sometimes, the weather doesn’t provide the conditions we’d like for crosswind training, in which case a good instructor should still have a trick or two up their sleeve to familiarise their students with crosswind landings before the real thing.

One such trick involves an exercise known as “sideslipping6.” Once airborne with sufficient height, establish the aircraft into a glide descent. Choose a reference point on the nose. Then, apply full right rudder, but instead of applying right aileron, apply left aileron so that the aircraft continues tracking to the chosen reference point. Following this, reverse the controls and practice this exercise in the opposite direction.

It’s also important to note the requirement to lower the nose substantially to maintain a safe airspeed, which will in turn increase your rate of descent. For those solo students reading, do NOT practice this exercise without the permission and guidance of your flight instructor.

While this exercise will not have the same effect as a real crosswind landing session, its mastery equates to mastery of cross-controlling the aircraft, which will translate well to a future crosswind landing lesson.

cross wind landing
The best way to learn crosswind landings is similar, in essence, to learning normal landings: by trying not to land at all!


While, at first, cross wind landings can seem unconquerable to many student pilots, like many things in aviation (and life in general), practice makes perfect, and every failed attempt is an opportunity to learn and grow. Additionally, armed with the tips and tricks outlined in this article, those student pilots reading should have minimal difficulty mastering this complex maneuver, despite the wind direction or the wind speed, in no time at all with the correct control inputs and with the guidance of a competent instructor. 

Reference List:

  1. ‘Crosswinds vs. Headwinds’, Accessed online at on 13th December 2022.
  3. ‘Slip (aerodynamics)’, Wikipedia. Accessed online at on 13th December, 2022.
  4. ‘Ailerons’, NASA. Accessed online at on 13th December, 2022.
  5. ‘Vertical Stabilizer – rudder’, NASA. Accessed online at on 13th December, 2022.
  6. ‘Slips: Forward Or Side, What’s The Difference And Why Care?’, Paul Berge, AVWeb. Published: March 21, 2021. Accessed online at on 13th December, 2022.
  7. ‘How To Make A Perfect Crosswind Landing’, Colin Cutler, Bold Method. Published: Dec 4, 2022. Accessed online at on Dec 13, 2022.
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ken johnson


Ken is a passionate aviator, a professional pilot and flight instructor. He has over 17 years of flight experience across hundreds of aircraft ranging from recreational, aerobatic, historic, commercial and military aircraft, training hundreds of students along the way. Find out more.

Ken has 124 posts and counting. See all posts by Ken

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