Should I Slip or “Crab and Kick” for Crosswind Landings?

I think it’s great when people start talking about “slip all the way” vs. “kick it at the last minute” as thought they were two completely different things. In many online groups (not yours of course), the flame throwers start next and each side tells why it’s selected method is the best. Being completely wishy-washy (Charlie Brown is my hero), my take is somewhere in the middle: “Crab & Kick” and “Slip All The Way” aren’t different from each other. They’re opposite ends of a spectrum. When I teach crosswind landings (is there really any other kind?) here’s the approach I take:

  1. As you turn final, you should still be in coordinated flight. That, at least initially, means crab in order to track the runway centerline. The direction and degree of the crab is a excellent indication of the general direction and strength of the wind. Comparison between this and the wind sock 300-400′ below will tell you a lot about what to expect (especially if they show the wind in opposite directions!)
  2. At some point you will transition into a slip. That point may be very early on final, somewhere down the middle, or in the flare. Where you do it will be a matter of personal preferences and your preference may change depending on flight conditions. For example, if the wind is particularly strong and you haven’t had a lot of crosswind practice lately, you might set up the slip earlier to test control effectiveness. If you have passengers on board (especially in the back seat) you might transition into the slip later since passengers don’t tend to enjoy the yaw of a slip that much. Use your rudder to turn the airplane so that your chest is square with the centerline. Use the ailerons to keep the centerline right between your feet. Make the corrections you need to keep it that way: rudder for your chest; ailerons for your feet.
  3. An important lesson to take home. Whether you transition to the slip at the last moment or a mile away, you have to move your ailerons into the crosswind correction configuration. And when you touch town, you must immediately moe the ailerons to the correct crosswind taxi position. If not, at best, you will sideload the airplane; at worst, the wind will lift your wing and/or push you off the runway. Most crosswind accidents happen once you are on the ground, not while you are still in the air The important things are pilot proficiency, pilot (and passenger) comfort level, safety, knowing that you have to transition to crosswind taxi on roll out, and understanding the aerodynamics involved in each end of the spectrum. (For example, a longer slip requires more power.)
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