What Would YOU Do?


Well-Known Member
Here's the scenario:

The weather forecast for the day of your cross country is UNLIMITED visibility. It is a crystal clear day.

You have rented a PA38-115 Tomahawk, which has a max crosswind capabiity of 16kts and a cruise speed of 90 KIAS - 100 IF you're lucky.

You only have it rented for three hours.

The SURFACE winds are blowing at 20 kts and gusting to 30 kts. all over the area.

Winds aloft are reported at 20 kts gusting to 36 kts... and that's only at 1000 ft. It gets much stronger the higher the altitude.

PIREPS have reported Light to Moderate turbulance all over the state.

This forecast is to continue until late afternoon.

There are no other planes available.

You NEED to build cross country hours.

Which call do you make? Go? No go?
Depends on your experience. Is this your first cross country? How much experience do you have flying with wind, not only crosswind, but correcting for wind in flight (crab)? These are questions you ask yourself. If you are a high time pilot and comfortable flying in high wind conditions and turbulence and you know the plane can handle it structurally, make a go. If you are not comfortable with the situation don't go. No one will criticize you for making a safe decision.
I'd take the safe approach and call it a day. I'm pretty proficient in crosswinds, but when your aircraft's looking like its stationary in the air, I would make a safe bet that it's safer to wait till there is less of a crosswind. There is always tomorrow. In the Navy we use ORM (Operational Risk Management), when we brief before a flight. We take into account crew rest, crew proficiency, aircraft discrepencies, weather, type mission, flight duration, and so on. All are assigned a specific number of points. If you have this number, it's a go. If you get that number, you scrub the flight. Its a safety call. Do you as the PIC feel that you will be safe and can operate your a/c safely in the forcasted conditions. Your call!
I think I'd go, but I am pretty comfortable with high crosswinds. But I've never flown a traumahawk before, so I don't know what sort of x-wind characteristics it has.
Having turbulence along the entire route of flight can be very unpleasant and physically exhausting though, so that might be something to consider.
I've heard of emergency landings, but never an emergency takeoff. You never NEED to get anywhere in a plane.

That being said, you didn't say what runway's you would be using. If that's 20 knots gusting to 30 knots right down the runway then what's the problem? If it's a direct crosswind with no other runways avalible you probably physically won't be able to make the flight beacuse you wouldn't be able to land the thing going straight.

I don't have any traumahawk time either, but if it were going to be in a 152 I wouldn't do it. If I were in something heavier, say an Arrow, then I would look at things a little closer.

I wouldn't say it'd be worth it in a plane that small, though.


John Herreshoff
All of my private and most of my commercial was in a Tomahawk, and I wouldn't go. We had an instructor and student try a cross country in winds similar the other day, straight down the runway. They got five miles out and said screw it. Turned back. Yes, the airplane could probably do it, but why push it?
I don't have any experience in the tomahawk, but in a 172 I'd definitely do it assuming the crosswind component for the runway headings at every airport I intended to use weren't forecast to exceed 15 knots (or the max. acceptable for the aircraft).

I flew from austin to dallas the other day with winds at 22G30, but they were blowing within at least 20 degrees of the runway headings at every airport I was going to use.

Takeoffs and Landings were really no problem, I just had to be careful during taxi and position the flight controls appropriately. I could really feel it when the plane was traveling perpendicular to the wind on the taxiway, but overall it was really no big deal.

All this said, if I only had about 100 hours or so I probably wouldn't have tried it.
Just to repeat other posters- as a CFI I would suggest basing your decision on your personal abilities. I don't think that a XC flight is an appropriate venue for lowering your personal weather minimums. This should be done locally, perferably with a CFI on board.

As far as 20 to 30kt's of wind, most commercial students I've taught are usually comfortable with this type of weather toward the end of their time building. (around 100-150 hours)
...I would suggest basing your decision on your personal abilities. I don't think that a XC flight is an appropriate venue for lowering your personal weather minimums.

[/ QUOTE ]

Ditto what he said..

Plus the cross wind component is only the demonstrated crosswind, not the MAX the acft can do safely, it is just a parameter that the FAA requires during certification.

As for this set exactly? dunno, I have never even sat in a T-hawk.
I probably wouldn't go and I'm a flight instructor. Remember, it's much better to be on the ground wishing you were up in the air than up in the air and wishing you were on the ground!

If you are going to fly over any mountainous terrain definitely do not go if the winds are above 25 knots!
I'd keep my a$$ parked right there on the ground. Call me a wuss but hell I consider myself proficient in heavy Xwinds (just got back from a greaser landing a 152 in 11 kts of xwind)... but when your gusts are that close to the stall speed you're just begging to be flipped like a pancake.

There was a guy in a Cessna 206 (waaaaayyyyy heavier than the Tomahawk) who messed up his plane pretty bad up in Mammoth while trying to pull off pretty much what you just described, r2f.

Just out of curiosity, why do you ask?
Oh and one more thing (then I'll stop posting, I swear!) is that if you pressure yourself into taking off (you NEED xc time, remember) then what happens when you get to your destination, 55nm or so away, and the winds are even worse. Now you're left with either trying to bust out a landing that will depend more on luck than skill, or turning around and not getting the xc time, and still get left with a huge bill after you're on the ground. That's not the best place to be when you're trying to make a safety oriented decision, and the fact that you put yourself in that position says even less about your judgement.
Great responses! Thanks to one and all.

Ed - nope - not feeling any pressure...and I agree with your statements about judgement. The scenario I presented was the case on Sunday when I had a x/c scheduled in the Tomahawk.

I made the No-Go call and felt great about doing so.

Of course, I was pissed that I didn't get to fly, but that's the way it goes sometimes.

The reason I asked is pretty self-explanitory: I wanted to see the type (meaning - experience, not personality type) of pilot that would make the GO decision.

I have just over 100 TT and those winds - in a Tomahawk - just don't jive with me right now. Maybe not ever in a Tomahawk for that matter. They're not the most stable of airplanes.

Had I rented a 172 or the Warrior - maybe - I don't know.

Thanks again for the replies!!