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Thumbs-up Taxiing

The flight controls should be properly positioned when taxiing during any wind condition. You can’t drive your car with only the accelerator and brakes, so don’t try it in the airplane. Using all the controls will help prevent ground loops and tipping, and they reduce the weathervaning tendency (to some extent in tricycle-gear airplanes). They make the airplane easier to steer on the ground.

When the wind strikes the airplane from the side, that is, a quartering headwind or quartering tailwind, it will try to lift the wing on that side.

Remember the song, "They Call the Wind Mirah," from the movie "Paint Your Wagon?" If you exhibit disdain for the wind you may find "Hell has no fury like a woman scorned."

Taxiing with a quartering tailwind is the most dangerous condition for the tricycle-gear airplane. In this example, with a left-quartering tailwind, it is possible for the wind to lift the windward (left) wing. The arrangement of the landing gear provides a pivot point for the airplane to tip over. This is aggravated if a left turn, with excess taxi speed, is made into the wind.

Some pilots use a complex thought process to determine the position of the flight controls when taxing with a wind present. For example, they reason, "If the wind is coming from the left rear, I need the left aileron down to block the airflow under the wing and this will eliminate some of the upsetting or wind tipping action by blocking airflow under the wing. Let’s see, if I move the control wheel to the left, the left aileron goes up and the right aileron goes down. Nope, that’s wrong, if I move the control wheel to the right, the left aileron goes down. That’s better." This is similar to going outside to shovel snow at the beginning of a snow storm. You get it done, but you have to do it again and again.

Taxiing with a direct headwind, a direct tailwind
or a direct crosswind, the thumb is straight up.
Neither aileron is deflected.

The axiom, "Climb into the wind, dive away from the wind," is used by some pilots to position the airplane controls when taxiing in wind. This means that with a wind from the front, pull back on the elevator control and turn into the wind (the elevator should be held in the neutral position with a headwind). With a tail wind, push the control wheel forward and turn away from the wind. This simplifies the process, but the only problem is that this requires conscious thought.

With a wind from the left front or right read,
parallel the wind line with the thumb line.

I subscribe to the KISS formula of "keep it simple, stupid." The method I use is called the "thumbs up" method. You need only be aware of the wind direction. It is then merely a matter of paralleling the wind with the thumb; not requiring conscious thought, just a movement of the hand.

With a wind from the right front or the left rear,
parallel the wind line with the thumb line.

I can see where the term "parallel the wind with the thumb" might cause confusion. To assist in visualizing how you parallel the wind with the thumb it might help to mentally draw a line through the airplane beginning from the wind direction, that is, where the wind strikes the airplane and extend that line through the airplane to the other side. Call this the "wind line." Then stretch out the thumb and turn the control wheel to parallel the line. A line extending along the thumb is called the "thumb line."

With a direct headwind, direct tailwind or direct crosswind, the ailerons are held in the neutral position, that is, the thumb is straight up. No deflection of the ailerons is needed to counteract the tipping action of the wind.

Climb into the wind, dive away from the wind ...
or parallel the wind direction with your thumb.

Once you understand the concept you will be able to go out and taxi in circles, reverse the turn, and maintain the proper control positioning without conscious thought beyond knowing the wind direction.

Wishing you blue skies, tailwinds and safe flying!







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