Effects Of Wind On Heading

Wind In Flight Is Like A River

The easiest way for a student pilot to understand how wind in flight affects us is to imagine a boat in a fast flowing  river. If we wanted to drive across the river and we aimed directly at the point we wanted to land, on the other side, then we kept that heading, we would get washed down river and land somewhere down river of our target location.

Similarly if we headed up river into the current it would take us a lot longer and a lot more fuel to get up river, then heading downriver with the fast flowing current.

Flying an aircraft is long distance in wind is just like crossing a river. We must aim upwind of our desired location and we must allow for extra fuel when heading into the wind.


The Effects Of Wind On Navigational Flights

Wind affects aircraft in navigation in three main ways:

  • The headwind or tailwind component increases or decreases our groundspeed
  • The sidewind component tries to blow us off our planned track
  • The effects of both, determine our flight time and our fuel required to reach our destination

Poor planning or monitoring of winds can have serious consequences including a forced off aerodrome landing.


Winds Vary At Different Altitudes And They Are Often Different From The Forecast:

  • Often winds are different strengths and directions at different altitudes, we can use this to our advantage
  • Often winds are different to the forecast, this can cause us serious fuel issues if left unchecked
  • It is your responsibility to check the winds in flight and adjust your planned times and fuel consumption


We Must Adjust For Winds As They Change

  • Our time between waypoints easily allows us to calculate ground speed
  • We can use our flight computer to determine actual winds when necessary
  • We must adjust our flight plan accordingly, especially if our ground speed is lower than anticipated.


Estimating Headwind Component

We need to calculate how much change in heading is required to achieve our planned track prior to takeoff and we may be required to recalculate in flight.  These skills should be practiced until its second nature on the ground.


Finding Winds Aloft

It is our responsibility to have accurate fuel and flight plans. We can only do this if we check the actual winds once we are aloft. This is done after your second waypoint.