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April 10, 2014 12:09 PM   Subscribe

A little video taken on gusty days at BHX, Birmingham, England's infamous Rock & Roll runway, 15-33. [SLYT]
posted by pjern (60 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh god. I made it 2 minutes and now I need a rest.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:13 PM on April 10 [6 favorites]


You can practically hear the pilot saying "Well, fuck this" from the cockpit, right before punching the throttle to abort the landing...

I've seen plenty of jets land in heavy crosswinds, but this is something else entirely. You'd think they'd have closed the runway after so many aborted landing attempts... They're lucky that nobody scraped an engine on the tarmac.
posted by schmod at 12:16 PM on April 10 [2 favorites]


oh god, oh god, oh god D:
posted by slater at 12:17 PM on April 10


[white knuckle grip on desk chair armrests]
posted by troika at 12:17 PM on April 10


Ah, my local airport when in England. It is entertaining to watch planes take-off and (especially) land in windy weather. Though, not quite so entertaining to be on one (especially when the person sitting next to you vomits less than 20 seconds after take-off).
posted by Wordshore at 12:18 PM on April 10 [2 favorites]


Wheeeeeeee!
posted by Rock Steady at 12:18 PM on April 10 [3 favorites]


Ah, my local airport when in England.

There are some shots where the runway looks almost bumpy (see 2:14). Is that the case, or is it just a trick of the camera?
posted by troika at 12:20 PM on April 10 [1 favorite]


Oh fuck no. I've been in some white knuckle landings as a passenger, but nothing like this. Nope. So much nope.
posted by strixus at 12:22 PM on April 10


I wonder if they have an in-airport laundry service that specializes in soiled pants
posted by slater at 12:23 PM on April 10


The forces at work on the actual tire rubber must be crazy. I don't see how they pull it off.
posted by SkinnerSan at 12:26 PM on April 10


This is not shit.
posted by srboisvert at 12:27 PM on April 10


Holy shit.

I took flying lessons for a while and did a few crosswind landings in a Cessna 152, which is a two-seater that weighs less than most cars. Winds were nothing at all like this, but even in light winds I still thought they were terrifying. I'm jumpy and anxious by nature, and I was taking lessons in part to get over a fear of flying, but crosswinds were always the second scariest thing I had to do, after power-on stalls.

Like they're showing here, you have to sort of skid into the wind and from the cockpit you feel like you're flying sideways, which you kind of are to some degree. All my life I assumed airplanes only flew straight and then suddenly I'm learning how to skid like I'm eight years old riding my Huffy bike. Then you land on one wheel before the other*.

Most terrifying landing ever was landing at a tiny little airport in Stow, MA, with hardly any wind. My instructor took over on approach and then to slow down he did a sideslip (I think that's what it was called, it was about 14 years ago now) as we came in over the trees at the end of the runway and I could count every single pinecone that looked like they were inches from the wheels.

This video is crazy. Not only are they crosswinds, but they look like they're gusting, which is way more dangerous.

I try to tell myself that pilots know what they're doing and won't land if the wind is too severe. In a couple of these they go "nope... going around!" I imagine it's even more scary on the second or third attempt.

*Been a while, I may have forgotten the actual technique but as far as I can tell it breaks all the laws of thermodynamics and then some.
posted by bondcliff at 12:28 PM on April 10 [5 favorites]


So, like an average day at Wellington then?

To be fair, Wellington's less cross-winds and more howling and gusty winds straight up or down the runway, which is short and has salt water at either end. Landing there in a 19-seater is great, if you want that "roller coaster just came off the track" feeling.
posted by happyinmotion at 12:31 PM on April 10


There are some shots where the runway looks almost bumpy (see 2:14). Is that the case, or is it just a trick of the camera?

It's not bumpy, but it's not straight-level the whole distance. The camera, possibly because of zoom, makes it look a lot less level than it is.

Please don't let this put you off coming to Birmingham. We've got one of the worlds great libraries, it's historically very important (industrial revolution especially), there's a multitude of cultural places to eat in, and it's a cheap place to stay and do stuff in.
posted by Wordshore at 12:35 PM on April 10 [8 favorites]


This reminded me of a time I held a stranger's hand during a rough landing approach, and in an attempt to be reassuring, told her "I've been in heavier turbulence than this." I had the presence of mind not to add "and I was pretty sure I was going to die that time, too."
posted by itstheclamsname at 12:35 PM on April 10 [12 favorites]


Though this looks scary, the most unsettling (but also spectacular) landings on scheduled air services I've been on in the UK have been to Scottish Islands.

Especially Barra, where the pilot cheerily announced "There's nae actual runway on the island; we just aim for the bit between the sea and the land. Usually works." The ... interesting ... weather in the Outer Hebrides sometimes makes such landings a little tricky.
posted by Wordshore at 12:38 PM on April 10 [4 favorites]


So, like an average day at Wellington yt then?

The sickest I've ever felt in my life was during (and after) a flight from Nelson to Wellington during a real Southerly buster. On our second go-round at WLG I was kinda hoping the plane would crash just to put me out of misery. One of the worst things is that on the approach (over the harbour) you're looking right out the window at the hills and houses on either side so you really get a good frame of reference for just how much you're being tossed wildly up and down.
posted by yoink at 12:39 PM on April 10 [1 favorite]


Oh my god. That Dash-8 (or whatever) at 4:48. Oh my god.

Also, remember people, the next time you have a rough landing, don't be mad at the pilot. Thank the pilot. The rough landings are the toughest.

Unless he's just a bad pilot, I suppose.
posted by bondcliff at 12:39 PM on April 10


I took flying lessons for a while and did a few crosswind landings in a Cessna 152, which is a two-seater that weighs less than most cars.

But this plane has four engines. It's an entirely different kind of flying, altogether.
posted by hal9k at 12:39 PM on April 10 [9 favorites]


I've been on a flight in northern Laos that nearly flipped on the gravel runway, and I've been on a flight where the approach was through a notch in the surrounding mountains with winds that required the pilot to basically stall out, then fall through the high winds down to smoother air in order to land, and still I have to say:

...must remind myself not to fly a prop into BHX.
posted by aramaic at 12:41 PM on April 10


It's an entirely different kind of flying!
posted by yoink at 12:43 PM on April 10 [3 favorites]


More sideways approaches at Birmingham.
posted by MtDewd at 12:46 PM on April 10 [1 favorite]


Wow. Utterly amazing. I love how the super long telephoto lens used in the video makes it look like the planes are hovering.
posted by zsazsa at 12:46 PM on April 10 [10 favorites]


Hell, even The Thunderbirds at their wiggliest flew steadier than these.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:49 PM on April 10 [2 favorites]


I love how the super long telephoto lens used in the video makes it look like the planes are hovering.

Yeah, it looked almost like the planes were VTOLs at first. Which of course I knew they weren't, but still.
posted by kmz at 12:50 PM on April 10 [1 favorite]


If it's all the same to you, Wordshore, if I ever need to visit your lovely town? I'm taking the bus.
posted by easily confused at 12:54 PM on April 10 [2 favorites]


Hell, even The Thunderbirds at their wiggliest flew steadier than these.

I clicked on that fully expecting to see the USAF demonstration team but your video was way better.
posted by bondcliff at 12:54 PM on April 10 [1 favorite]


I took flying lessons for a while and did a few crosswind landings in a Cessna 152...

I've had a similar experience, and that's when I learned that a "straight" approach sometimes means coming in with the nose pointed somewhere...else.
posted by malocchio at 1:12 PM on April 10


Learning to land in a crosswind was one of the most fun things in my pilot training. Like bondcliff, also little tiny planes, although 172SPs for me. Most of learning to fly is learning to gently work systems in smooth, unhurried motions. You just don't get the opportunity to really do much, even when flaring for the landing if you do it right it's all a calm smooth motion.

Except crosswind landings in gusty winds. I distinctly remember the lightbulb moment when my instructor said "you need to dance on the pedals faster!" and I replied "oh, you mean like a videogame?" Next three times around I was sitting up and working the rudder pedals like I was playing some twitch fighter game. And I managed to match the bursty crosswinds and it was the first time I felt like I was really flying, stick and rudder. Fun lessons. Still terrifying by yourself though :-)

These videos are fun but confusing because of the zoom lens and weird angles. Also I think some are running at 2–3x speed? Maybe that's just a trick of the telephooto compression.
posted by Nelson at 1:14 PM on April 10 [1 favorite]


I'm curious, with big, modern, largely-automated jets, how much of this is seat-of-the-pants piloting and how much of this is done by computers adjusting for the conditions? I suppose it depends on the plane. Little bit of both, maybe?

Mr. Backseatpilot, white courtesy phone.

No, the white one
posted by bondcliff at 1:19 PM on April 10 [2 favorites]


I'm a long term Brummie and have flown in and out of BHX quite a few times without noticing anything.

Will definitely be checking the windspeed before flying out to the continent next week though...
posted by brilliantmistake at 1:19 PM on April 10 [2 favorites]


I am a leaf on the wind - watch how I... ah, to hell with this. Take us up again and we'll come round.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:24 PM on April 10 [1 favorite]


Interesting how fast they raise the gear after an aborted landing.
posted by smackfu at 1:24 PM on April 10


It's hard to tell the difference between gusts and wind shear (where the winds strength/direction changes as you move through it vertically) but both make it extra sporting. The wind shear is somewhat inevitable in high winds because buildings and trees on the ground slow down the wind, so in landing you wind up facing a really strong crosswind higher up that suddenly changes to a moderate crosswind just as you get ready to flare.

My home airport is in a small valley which makes the wind shear more pronounced, but has the bonus of reducing the ultimate crosswind on landing. This means there's less chance of running out of rudder, when there is not enough rudder authority to straighten the plane out before touchdown. In that case you can go around for another try or, probably more wisely, find another runway nearby better aligned with the wind. And you can cheat a little with a tricycle gear plane (compared to conventional old school taildraggers) and land pointing slightly off center, but trying that in a taildragger is likely to result in a ground loop.

I'm curious, with big, modern, largely-automated jets, how much of this is seat-of-the-pants piloting and how much of this is done by computers adjusting for the conditions?

The autoland crosswind limits described here seem mostly lower than the winds look in this video, in which case the pilots would have to hand-fly the landings.
posted by exogenous at 1:28 PM on April 10


It looks like taking off (or aborting) is actually easier (er, faster) in these gusts, like the planes just ride the wild wind right up into the air rather than going through all that what-always-seems-to-me-to-be huge runway runup to liftoff and steady slow climb up up and away
posted by chavenet at 1:54 PM on April 10


Thank you, Mr. Physics, for acceleration and air pressure!
posted by breadbox at 1:57 PM on April 10


I'm a long term Brummie

Why oh why will none of you people take up my cause, and refer to yourselves as "Brummells"? C'mon! C'mon, it'd be great. Nobody else would get the joke, but it'd still be great and we could all laugh about it from time to time. Besides, reviving Dandyism in the Midlands would really put a stick in the eye of London.
posted by aramaic at 2:01 PM on April 10 [3 favorites]


Please don't let this put you off coming to Birmingham. We've got one of the worlds great libraries, it's historically very important (industrial revolution especially), there's a multitude of cultural places to eat in, and it's a cheap place to stay and do stuff in.

The Naga Lamb & mackerel bhuna at Grameen Khana in the Balti Triangle are awesome and would almost make those landings worth doing (if the air fares were not over a $1000).

The winds this winter in Brum were likely the storms that were the flipside of the Polar Vortex visits to the American MidWest. Every time we had a deep freeze in Chicago there was a major windstorm in the UK.
posted by srboisvert at 2:12 PM on April 10 [1 favorite]


Watching the landings, even the aborted ones, bothers me about 100x less than the take-offs. Brrr, no thanks.
posted by peep at 2:15 PM on April 10


The takeoffs remind me of the feeling of driving along in a car with your hand out the window, parallel to the road, and then you tilt the leading edge of your hand up... just... a... bit and FOOM, your hand gets whipped up and back by the wind.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:20 PM on April 10 [1 favorite]


Rock Steady , which is a fun thing to do even when your youth is officially over since about 30 years :-)
posted by nostrada at 2:26 PM on April 10 [1 favorite]


Weather-induced Harrier jet landing style. I can't even fathom how they keep the plane from speeding off once they "drop" the plane on the tarmac - that's just scary.
posted by Chuffy at 2:27 PM on April 10


Are we sure these planes aren't flying in ideal conditions, but piloted by Ozzy Osbourne?

Weather-induced Harrier jet landing style.

Just like the rollercoaster runway, the 'hovering' is mostly an optical illusion resulting from the spacial compression of the telephoto lens. (For reference: Those dots down the middle of the runway are really stripes that are each about 30m long.)
posted by Sys Rq at 2:39 PM on April 10 [2 favorites]


What these sorts of approaches look like from the cockpit.
posted by pjern at 3:20 PM on April 10 [3 favorites]


Me: I like how the only audio is the sound of the howling wind.
Plane-skittish husband: Well, what are they going to do, dub in Yakety Sax?

Me: (opens up new tab, plays Yakety Sax)

We howled for the rest of the video. Try it!
posted by kimberussell at 3:38 PM on April 10 [1 favorite]


England's infamous Rock & Roll runway,

The landscape in the background reminds me of the back sleeve of 'Zoso'.
posted by ovvl at 3:40 PM on April 10 [1 favorite]


The amount of butt-puckering would totally obviate the need for a seat belt.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 3:40 PM on April 10


No, the white one

Put Hamm on line, hold the Mayo.

Modern autopilots correct for wind pretty well. There are usually built-in limits, though, such that if your heading deviates from your course more than a certain number of degrees it'll automatically disconnect the autopilot and let the meat pilots do their thing.

There are two ways to fly a crosswind landing. The first is what the big planes in the video are doing, which is known as a "crab" (because you're moving sideways, get it? This thing on?). The pilot uses the rudder to angle the nose of the airplane into the wind in order to keep the plane flying straight towards the runway, a bit like how you might point a boat into the current of a river to cross it. The plane's wings stay level. Right at the last second, the pilot takes the wind correction out, brings the nose back to the runway heading, and puts it on the ground (gracefully, presumably). You can see that pretty clearly in most of the landings on the video.

The second way, usually favored by small aircraft, is the side slip. This is a little more complicated. Wings produce lift perpendicular to their span, so if you're flying straight and level the direction of the lift is basically straight up (this is not entirely true since most wings are angled slightly relative to the aircraft body, but regardless). When you roll the airplane (dip the wings left or right), that lift vector moves with the wings and now you get a slight horizontal component in addition to the vertical component - this is how an airplane turns. So, in a side slip, the pilot rolls the wings into the wind; if the wind is coming from your left, you roll the plane left. This effectively counteracts the wind's force, but it also will start the plane turning. To keep the plane straight, the rudder is used in the opposite direction of the roll to force the nose to stay pointed in the direction of flight. So, wings left rudder right, or wings right rudder left. The pilot maintains this attitude all the way to the ground - the goal is to land on the upwind wheel first, then let out the roll correction and let the other main gear meet the ground, and then finally let the nose down and allow the nose gear to touch.

Larger aircraft tend to avoid the side slip method because you have a greater tendency to stall the wing that way (and in such an unbalanced situation, quickly turn that stall into a spin with not nearly enough altitude to recover from it).

If I have to do a crosswind landing with passengers, I'll usually warn them ahead of time. "The plane is going to do something that will feel very strange. This is perfectly normal. Do not panic. Airsick bags are in my flight bag if you need them."
posted by backseatpilot at 4:09 PM on April 10 [12 favorites]


The recurring anxiety dream I've had for years is about being on a plane taking off and it can't climb properly, veers off and crashes. I shall sleep well tonight, cheers.
posted by billiebee at 4:34 PM on April 10


I flew into BHX a couple of weeks ago. Nice calm day, but the video explains why there was a lot of nervous joking in Brummie accents as we were making the descent. The Bombardier Q400 is a cute little plane, but I don't think I'd enjoy a side slip landing.
posted by pipeski at 4:37 PM on April 10


If you want to get BHX weather, try calling 0121-780 0910. That should be the ATIS on the field.
posted by backseatpilot at 4:42 PM on April 10


Actually, bigger planes are less vulnerable to strong winds than smaller planes. Crosswinds vector relative to your flair stall [landing] speed. And planes are engineered for this. That was still terrifying to watch though.

I have a friend, Jim, who is now a licensed instuctor and while he was going to flight college when we were in our late teens he used me to practice his instructing skills. He would show his card and they would give us the keys to a freaking airplane - we couldn't even rent a car at that age but "Yeah, your Cessna is [tail number] our there on the right".

Flying is actually not that hard once airborn, you have a lot of room in all dimensions, landing is scary though. My first landing lesson, in a Cessna 152, suprisingly announced as we were maybe thirty seconds from the end of the tarmac on Boeing Field approaching two-eight right went like this:

Jim, "Ok, you're gonna land the plane"
Me, "No I'm not"
Jim, "Yes you are"
Me, [to myself] "fuck"

It turns out you can bounce a Cessna 152 really hard.
posted by vapidave at 5:09 PM on April 10 [3 favorites]


All I know is that the pilot operating handbook for the plane I work on (707 variant) says something to the effect of "DO NOT SIDE SLIP THE PLANE OR BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN".
posted by backseatpilot at 5:23 PM on April 10


Me: I like how the only audio is the sound of the howling wind.
Plane-skittish husband: Well, what are they going to do, dub in Yakety Sax?

Done. And yes, it does make the videos much funnier.
posted by oozy rat in a sanitary zoo at 6:07 PM on April 10 [2 favorites]


I hope all those pilots were immediately qualified for V-22 Osprey flight upon landing.
posted by yerfatma at 6:52 PM on April 10


kimberrussell and oozy rat ftw!

I really feel like these pilots should've got standing ovations once the plane was safely tucked up nice and snug to the gate. And all passengers had safely stowed tray tables and barf bags. *shudder*
posted by cardinality at 7:41 PM on April 10


"All I know is that the pilot operating handbook for the plane I work on (707 variant) says something to the effect of "DO NOT SIDE SLIP THE PLANE OR BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN"."

Hee. Does a barrel roll count?

[Such oddly slender cowlings on the engines compared to the planes these days - amazingly low bypass]
posted by vapidave at 10:23 PM on April 10 [2 favorites]


If I go to Birmingham, it'll be by bus.
posted by Mister_A at 9:45 AM on April 11


Backseatpilot gives a great description of crabs and sideslips. Sideslips are REALLY fun maneuvers to do, especially in tailwheel aircraft. There's a technique where you can sideslip around a corner which is kinda fun.

Also - since we're talking about it - one of the nice things about sideslips is that they increase your drag significantly, which means you can dump altitude quickly without increasing your airspeed.

I've only flown little piston-engined bugsmashers. Those guys on the video. Yeah. Giant brass balls. The RJ at 7:45 in the video was terrifying.
posted by Thistledown at 12:56 PM on April 11 [1 favorite]


There is another way to help you land in crosswinds - if you happen to be landing a B52. "A notable feature of the landing gear was the ability to pivot the main landing gear up to 20° from the aircraft centerline to increase safety during crosswind landings" Seen here.

And just for fun here is a quick clip from the bush pilot STOL [Short Take Off and Landing] competition.
posted by vapidave at 7:18 AM on April 12


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