It takes considerable skill to land a Boeing 777 or C-17 in tough crosswind conditions.
We’ve shared some amazing videos before from Birmingham Airport (BHX) in the UK. Not only is it an avgeek spotter’s hangout, it is also a field that can be notoriously difficult. Due to the airport’s runway orientation, terrain features, and proximity to the North Sea, Birmingham gets walloped by winter storms and even sees some challenging crosswinds during the summer too. Avgeeks are always out at the fields capturing the arrivals. That means that we are blessed with plenty of videos of pilots’ approaches to critique.
This video, filmed back in 2014 by FlugSnug, compares the landing of two similarly large but very differently designed birds of the sky–the Boeing 777 and C-17.
Techniques vary for crosswind landings. The basic concept is to keep that aircraft pointed towards the runway and avoid side-loading the gear or allowing the winds to blow the aircraft off of centerline during the landing sequence. The placement of the engines (slung below the wing or at the tail), the location of the wing (high-wing like the C-17 or low-wing like the 777) affect the technique suggested by the manufacturers to counter crosswind conditions. For pilots, it requires them to anticipate the observed conditions and react to unexpected ones during the approach too.
In the video, you’ll see the massive Boeing 777 gracefully fight the crosswind with a wing-low technique that ‘kicks’ the rudder just prior to touchdown. The C-17 leverages a different technique. The Globemaster is de-crabed starting at around 300 feet. It uses its massive rudder to keep it’s nose aligned with the runway centerline while keeping the upwing wing low to avoid drifting in the direction of the wind. On the C-17’s approach, be sure to check out the rapid movement of the rudder and the oscillation of the giant Pratt and Whitney engines too!
In both cases, note how the pilots continue to ‘fly’ the aircraft even after touchdown. The winds are still creating havoc for the pilots and they must counter those forces with the control surfaces and main gear brakes to keep the aircraft on centerline throughout the completion of the rollout. These videos also serve as proof against some people who advocate for the ridiculous concept of circular runways. The gusty winds on such a runway would lead to havoc even for these experienced aviators.