Wind Pushes and Pulls

We commonly think about how the wind pushes the airplane, but did you know that the wind pulls as well?

Cruising with a tailwind pushes us forward while headwind pushes us back. If we are flying with a crab angle we can look at the ground and get the feeling that we are flying sideways. In these cases, the wind is pushing us from whichever direction it is coming from.

Sometimes the wind pulls us

This effect of the wind “pulling” happens only on the ground, and usually just on the runway as we speed up to depart or slow down while landing.

With the wheels on the ground, the dynamics change and a crosswind blowing on the side of the plane will put more force on the vertical stabilizer because it is bigger.

The wheels on the ground create a fulcrum point that the plane will want to pivot around.

If the wind is blowing from the left it will push the vertical stabilizer to the right. The plane will pivot around the wheels so you will see a yaw to the left from the cockpit, towards the wind.

The yellow arrows represent the force from the wind on the tail and the force from the ground on the wheels. The large blue arrow shows the result of these forces: In this case a turn to the left.


This is why it is helpful to think about the wind pulling you when you are on the ground. Expect to steer away from the wind until after liftoff when you will crab into the wind.