Oh, So THAT’S How You Land In a Crosswind…

There is nothing that will kill confidence in your landing skills faster than skidding sideways across the runway towards the grass.
This was a pretty exciting day. We flew to Bridgeport, Connecticut (BDR) for more crosswind landing practice, along with the practice of navigating to a new airport. BDR isn’t too hard to find; we just head out to the Northport Stacks (the VFR visual checkpoint near the north practice area, we’ve discussed it before), then head northeast across Long Island Sound. Flying across the sound is absolutely beautiful, I can’t even describe it.  I’ll rely, for now, on the words of Mark Vanhoenacker from his book Skyfaring (affiliate link) which you should read RIGHT NOW. I mean it. RIGHT NOW. It is one of the most informative and beautiful aviation-related books I have ever encountered.
The blueness of the sea is as perfect as the sky it reflects. It is as if we are slowly descending over the surface of a blue star, as if all other blues are to be mined or diluted from this one.Mark Vanhoenacker
I would have expected a 747 pilot to be more of an engineering nerd and less of a poet, but he proved me wrong.

We dropped down towards Bridgeport, and I was delighted to see the airport is located along the shore, nestled among wetlands. We called the tower and set up for a left base for Runway 29. We flew a right traffic pattern for our touch-and-goes, which had us circling between two beautiful wetlands, and descending for base and final over the Housatonic River. Check it out, along with my Photoshop SKILLZ:


One of the funny things about not knowing the area around NYC very well is that these names (Bridgeport, Housatonic) have no association for me. I don’t know which towns are wealthy or which towns are industrial hellholes. These cities may be prosperous or struggling, the river may be pristine or polluted, but from the air, at least, it’s all beautiful. Then again, I’m from Louisiana, so struggling cities and once-and-still-kinda beautiful semi-polluted natural areas hold a soft spot in my heart…


We did SEVEN landings at BDR,as my CFI tried (with some success) to teach me proper crosswind landing and takeoff technique. I struggled a bit with the transition from a crab to a side slip, mostly because I wasn’t understanding that, in a side slip, it is OK for one of the rear wheels to touch down before the other one. The most important thing is that you maintain your direction of travel in line with the runway. I kept trying to level the wings too soon, which resulted in drift across the runway, which then resulted in skidding and all sorts of fun times post-touchdown. By the end of the seven landings I had a lightbulb AH-HA! moment, and it all made sense. We also squeezed in a go-around, a forward slip, and a short approach during all of these landings, so my brain was definitely working overtime. After the seventh landing, we taxied in, full up the airplane’s tanks, emptied our own tanks, and hopped back into 7AD for the flight back to FRG.

My lightbulb moment here was a big one, and my post-landing control since then has been much better. There is nothing that will kill confidence in your landing skills faster than skidding sideways across the runway towards the grass. And I’m pretty sure that flat spot on the tire was already there when I started flying 7AD. Wasn’t me, I swear.