“Line the nose up on the runway with your feet,” Dutch, my flight instructor, intoned. I felt his feet tapping on the rudder pedals, letting me know that I needed to use more rudder. “That’s it. Now put it into a slip,” he coached. “Keep it lined up with the centerline! Right before you flare, straighten it out. I don’t want any side-loads.”
I struggled to make the Cessna 150 that was at the mercy of a direct crosswind do my bidding as we descended. I straightened out the aircraft. We landed on the main wheels and I quickly turned the yoke toward the oncoming wind to keep us from getting pushed off the centerline as we rolled out.
“That, my dear, was a crosswind landing,” Dutch announced. It was my first one. All in all I had but a few seconds to practice the crab to slip transition.
“That few seconds is all most pilots get, and that is not enough,” says Brad Whitsitt, a CFI and the president of Xwind LLC. The Indianapolis-based company is developing the Xwind 200, which may be the first crosswind-landing trainer available to the GA market.
“What makes the Xwind 200 different from other computer-aided trainers is that it moves,” he says. “It has lateral motion and it rolls and yaws independently.”
He built the trainer because he felt there had to be a better — and safer — way to teach crosswind landings.
“What usually happens is that students have just seconds for the transition from the crab to the slip and then the flare — and during that they are white-knuckled. Learning stops at that point,” he says. “My focus was to build a device to help low-time pilots land in a crosswind without risking their lives.”
Whitsitt, who has a background in electrical engineering, spent five years developing the trainer, which sells for around $20,000.
“It has to be affordable and relatively inexpensive when you compare it to the flight training devices and full motion simulators that can go for $250,000 or more,” he says.
What makes the trainer unique, he adds, is that it doesn’t have a projection screen. “The feedback mechanism is the floor and the cowling of the machine,” he explains. “You are looking over the cowling to the centerline on the floor like you do in an airplane. The track that it runs on has 15 feet of lateral position.”
The unit sports standard rudder pedals and a yoke. There is an emergency stop button accessible to the student. The student wears a seat belt, which should tell you something about how realistic the simulation is.
The instructor, stationed at a computer behind the student, programs crosswinds and gusts. Because there is no “landing” as there would be in an airplane or even in a conventional flight training device with a projection screen, the student can spend several minutes perfecting the art of the slip or the crab and the transition from crab to slip.
“Practice makes perfect,” quips Whitsitt, noting that the trainer benefits the instructor, too, because it allows the CFI to watch students closely and offer correction in a more timely fashion.
“In the airplane I have to pay attention to the landing, but with the trainer I can watch the students’ body posture, where their eyes are looking and how they are using their feet,” he says.
The instructor can pause the unit and point out mistakes to the student and correct them on the spot. One of the most common mistakes, says Whitsitt, is when a student tries to line up on the centerline of the runway by using aileron only.
“I tell them to point the nose with their toes, you know, use the rudder, but it is amazing how many people, even experienced pilots, don’t do that,” he says. “And with more practice they can perfect the transition from the crab to the slip. Their reaction time improves by using the trainer.”
Another benefit of using the trainer is that it costs less to operate per hour than most training aircraft. It also allows a student to feel the effect of a 25- to 35-knot direct crosswind. That’s impressive, especially when you consider that it is significantly higher than the demonstrated crosswind component of most light training aircraft.
The Xwind 200 is electrically operated and plugs into a standard wall socket.
Currently it can be viewed at a shared hangar at Indianapolis Executive Airport (KTYQ). Whitsitt notes that manufacturing facilities have already been secured for this first-of-its-kind device and once production gets underway new simulators should be delivered six to eight weeks after an order is placed.
For more information: XWindSim.com