My Airplane Darts Downwind When I Land. Why?

May 27, 2015 at 12:01 PM

Piper_Meridian.jpgAs I landed a Piper Meridian in a stiff crosswind (17G25), the upwind wheel touched, I flew on the upwind wheel as planned, consuming excess energy, the downwind wheel set down when I could no longer hold it off the runway, and then I gently lowered the nose wheel to the ground while carefully pointing my nose with my toes at the far end of the runway.  This was going great! Pop the Champagne! 

When the nose wheel touched the runway, I remembered just how fast excess pride can be extracted from a pilot's brain. I actually needed to pay attention to an airplane that has a direct link between rudder and nose wheel steering.  Since I was applying nearly max downwind rudder to maintain alignment during flight, this turns into a max downwind steering component when the nose wheel starts to produce reliable friction on the runway and the airplane may want to "dart" downwind.

Nosewheel.jpgIf you are ready for this, it is not much of a problem.  You can let up on the rudder just a but as you touch the nose or you just react as needed.  But sometimes when we are a bit distracted due to the gusty workload at hand, this tiny excitement can be overlooked.  Another way to handle this is to allow for a slight yaw into the wind when the nose wheel touches.

So, remember, especially in a Piper or a plane with solid links to the nose steering, you must learn to compensate.  In the end, your only goal is to maintain alignment.  Do that, and you win.


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