Flying in Strong Winds

As the UK is currently experiencing the worst storm of the year so far, with winds gusting at 75-90mph I felt it necessary to add a quick (and unplanned) article on the subject of flying in strong winds.

As with any bad weather there are strict procedures, and regulations that must be adhered to to ensure that flying remains safe. With regards to wind, the direction is an important factor. With wind blowing down the runway, there is not too much of an effect – except a bumpy take-off and landing.

If the wind is blowing ACROSS the runway (known as a crosswind), flights can be delayed or even cancelled. Each aircraft type has a ‘crosswind limit’ – which is the strength of wind the plane is certified to land in. If the wind speed exceeds this limit, the flight will not take-off or land.

Further to this, airlines and airports will have their own limits which may be more strict than is required by aviation authorities. The important fact is this; No aircraft will land or take-off in wind that is too strong.

Remember the ‘just in case’ principle. An aircraft may be able to land in 30mph cross winds, but the airlines may impose a limit of 20mph (windspeed figures I’ve used are just for example purposes). This is because the aviation industry is always acting to ensure safety, and will never compromise it for operational gain – and I mean NEVER!

Aircraft limits are based on testing completed by highly trained test pilots – and you can see a video of this here.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is landing in crosswind dangerous?

No, for the reasons I’ve stated above. Aircraft have crosswind limits that are strictly adhered to at all times.

  • Do pilots need special training to land in strong winds?

No, all pilots are fully trained to land in string winds, and it takes no more effort than any other landing – so I’m told!

Take-off and landing in strong wind will be bumpy, but is perfectly safe. If conditions are not safe, then the flight will not leave (or may be diverted to a different airport).

Any questions? Post them below and I will answer them for you if I can. Happy flying!

15 responses to “Flying in Strong Winds”

  1. Hi, I need help because I used to enjoy flying and flew a lot, and then I had a flight in which we had to land in a thunderstorm. We had circled above the storm for 45 minutes waiting for the storm to depart, and then the pilot came on the loudspeaker and said “we have to land in the storm because we are running out of gas. Everyone fasten your seat beats securely and hang on. It’s going to be rough!” We went into the storm and before long, suddenly we DROPPED a long way fast and then hit, hard onto some air below. The plane was not out of control but it was clear we couldn’t control what was going to happen to us. People were screaming; praying “Hails Marys” etc …. I was actually relatively calm. We made it down safely. Thank God. Since that flight, I have been freaked out. What good are regulations if the plane is going to run out of gas? What if the winds had been beyond the limits of the plane? I live in Miami and we get a lot of thunderstorms here. I want to fly again so much….I love to see the world! I appreciate whatever advice you can give me. Sharon

    • Hi Sharon,

      Sorry for the delay in replying to your message. Firslty, the pilot was irresponsible in the case you mention above. He/she should never have said “we are running out of gas”. In truth, it would only have meant that the fuel was approaching a level where the pilots must make a decision.

      In this circumstance, they would have had the choice of landing in the storm, or diverting to another airport. They obviously chose to land in the storm. This decision would have been taken ONLY after ensuring it was safe to do so.

      Every pilot carries enough fuel for the trip, plus extra in case of having to ‘hold’ (which is what you were doing for 45 minutes). Obviously, fuel is limited. At a certain point, pilots will have to decide whether to make an approach, or divert to a nearby airport. There still would have been enough fuel to go around if needed.

      Unfortunately, a lot of pilots are unaware of how their announcements may be misconstrued by passengers. It’s not really their fault. They are so comfortable with flying, and know how safe it is, but they often ‘forget’ that not all passengers are so happy flying.

      On this occasion, your pilot simply said the wrong thing. When he/she said ‘running out of gas’ they simply meant they had to decide whether to land, or divert. No pilots will ever come close to running out of fuel before making this decsion.

      With regards to your landing, this was perfectly normal. Landing in a storm can be pretty bumpy, but it always feels worse than it actually is.

      Hope that helps.

  2. hi
    im flying to australia from london in september we are flying with royal brunei airlines via dubai and brunei, however have read reviews and discovered there is no alcohol on board and i hate flying so i need a good drink to calm me whilst i am flying, i am going with my children and they know me of old and get very angry and moody with me when i start panicking if there is turbulence etc, i am afraid of virtually everything happening from terrorists to the plane crashing can you help?
    thanks liz

  3. Hey there,

    This website has helped me a lot with my fear of turbulence. I am flying to Paris next May (end of May) and our flight is going from California to Canada to Paris on Air France. I’m freaking out a little bit because I have never gone on a flight more than 3 hours long. I am going with a group of people that have gone this route several times on Air France and they love it. One of the passengers will be a pilot who I have taken a ride with in his private plane.. I didn’t do well on that trip. I really do hope I’ll be okay. Now that I know that turbulence will not break the wings of the plane.. I feel much better!

    • I’m so pleased the site has helped you out. That’s what I’m here for! You’re flight will be fine… I can promise you 100% that the wings will not fall off during any turbulence.

      Let us know how you get on in May!

  4. Hello,

    I have been using this site for a year now…i used to not even think about flying before but unfortunately that care free attitude has transformed into a complete fear! I have been working on it and i’m a little better now, i know what noises and feelings to expect etc…

    however I am flying from Paris to Belfast with easyjet this thursday…and the met predicts gales in Ireland…over 29mph…so i’m freaking out a little….i was once on a plane from Glasgow to Belfast and the winds were too strong to land at the city airport, we had to land at the intl one…the pilot actually alpologized over the mic when we landed. It was a very rough landing indeed….has wind ever caused accidents before…i know this seems a little irrational but i wouldn’t mind hearing your opinion…is 29mph too strong?? Thanks!

  5. Kevin, I found your site recently and have to say THANKYOU! you are soo reassuring and informative, I really appreciate all your work!

  6. Hello Kevin,
    I have been using your site for awhile now to try and cope with my fear of flying and I think it may be working Im not as fearful of flying in turblulance anymore. I am flying from Texas to the UK this December and I have to say Im still pretty nervous about flying in general, and now I think my son has my fear as well. The sad thing is I have been making this journey back and forth between the states and England for 4 years now and for some reason the fear of flying has come out of nowhere! My main fear is just crashing and that last moments of fear as I try to comfort my son ( Im getting weepy eyed just thinking about it) . I know from your website that theres not much that can happen but I still dont know how to just cope. Or make sure that my fear isnt seen by my child becuase I want him to enjoy flying as I once did. I did want to say thank you for putting up this site as I come back often and re-read things to make me feel better. Thanks Again!

  7. Hi i have just joined your site and was looking for advice

    I have flown several times and although I am not the keenest person to fly and did it.
    However I was due to fly the week before Christmas but didnt really give it much thought as I was so busy working.
    I don’t know what happened but I completely lost if and was trying to not show my little boy i was crying. The thought of flying home was causing me so much anxiety and again was crying and ready to panic. I have sworn I can never get on another plane.

    The pilot was good enough to warn us of turbulence and i had to deal with it.

    Why have i suddenly got this fear I had 4 hr flight of stress and was vomitting and headache once i got home.

    Please advise


    • hi Pauline
      How old is your little boy ? am only asking because I develop a fear for flying when pregnant with my son , were you scared of flying before you became a mum ?

  8. why do das 8,s allways have bumpy rides and when its landing even on fine conditiond it feels like its cross wind landing

  9. I was told one that when air stewards are trained that they are advised that their most dangerous passengers are those that are frightened of flying. I absolutely hate flying and I don’t get on the plane until they shut the door as I feel this helps me. But why is it that the stewards, although know you are nervous, do nothing to alleviate your fear. I travel regularly to Lanzarote from Gatwick and the stewards don’t seem to care less. I took a brave pill in June and flew to New York, but the stewards either way couldn’t have been better (BA). Is it just the flights of four hours or less where they don’t care ?

  10. I am saving this websites so I can read it again and again. I am suffering from a fear of flying for almost 20 years. It contributed for my marriage to break down. I’ve tried a fear of flying course, but sadly it didn’t work for me. I know that these courses have helped many people. I don’t blame the course I blame myself. I’ve got two grown up children and every time they fly I fall apart fearing for their lives. I know it is stupid of me. I am absolutely desperate to beat this fear. It has taken over my life and I am so angry with myself. Before I used to try to fly. I became physically sick weeks before a flight with sickness and diarrhea loosing almost 2 stones until a flight. Now I just avoid flying all together and just thinking about it makes me tense. I haven’t flown for 10 years. I play in my head all the catastrophic scenes in great detail. Anything which can go wrong no matter how far fetched it is and convince myself this is what is going to happen. Even making a will before flying and being absolutely sure that the plane will crash or fall out of the sky and I will die in the most horrific and painful slow way. I’ve been to a doctor but they don’t have the means to help me. I’ve got to beat this fear before it beats me. Reading this website has helped to make me at ease. Something I haven’t felt for a long time. I know I still have a long way to go, but it is a start. I would like to thank you for creating this website. Fingers crossed one day I will fly. There is a big world out there and I would love to see a bit of it. Again thank you 🙂 Vee Bee

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