The Beautiful and the Ugly
April 7, 2015 10:45 PM   Subscribe

First and third links were my favourite. I have never seen vortices coming off the tip of flaps before! Now I have yet another thing to look out for when I watch planes take off and land.

Also, don't share this with the rest of the interwebs at large, lest it cause an influx in comments about chemtrails.
posted by LoRichTimes at 10:55 PM on April 7, 2015

Awkwardly graceful, if in fact that can be a thing.
I would be referring to the crosswind landings.

Mesmerizing, too.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 11:00 PM on April 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

The runway in a few of those crosswind landings doesn't look particularly flat. I can't imagine that'd make things any easier.
posted by bangalla at 11:20 PM on April 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Those crosswind landings are EXCITING.
posted by dazed_one at 11:31 PM on April 7, 2015

I know it's just an artifact of the filming angle, but I can't help feeling like the pilots are having a hard time landing under crosswinds because they have mistaken their airplanes for helicopters and are trying to land vertically.
posted by Bugbread at 11:35 PM on April 7, 2015 [3 favorites]

While it's not a "weather" video, this video of a A380 approaching SFO is one of my favorites (crash videos are my typical favorite because they scare me). I think I originally saw it linked off mefi, actually.
posted by MillMan at 12:36 AM on April 8, 2015 [5 favorites]

Now I'm curious and will have to look it up...I assume landing gear has some sort of tell-tale that tells the ground crew that the place can't fly again until they're inspected? One of those landings clearly bottomed out the gear, and I would think they even a stalwartly-built bit of kit would garner an eyeball for that.
posted by maxwelton at 12:41 AM on April 8, 2015

The segments in the second video, where all you can hear are the birds chirping in the background, are just incredibly beautiful to me.
posted by Guernsey Halleck at 12:42 AM on April 8, 2015

For your viewing pleasure: extreme crosswind takeoffs and landings at Wellington International Airport: 1, 2, 3.
posted by Sonny Jim at 1:23 AM on April 8, 2015

bangalla: "The runway in a few of those crosswind landings doesn't look particularly flat. I can't imagine that'd make things any easier."
BHX previously on MeFi.
posted by brokkr at 1:57 AM on April 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

> One of those landings clearly bottomed out the gear

I've been a passenger in landings like the "Landing Gear Hammered" video before. And yeah, I've wondered that myself after the thrill of feeling my lower spinal column compress wears off, anyway..
posted by ardgedee at 4:07 AM on April 8, 2015

They do visual inspections of the oleo (visible shiny portion of the strut) to ensure the hard landing was within limits.
posted by squorch at 4:20 AM on April 8, 2015

Also, don't share this with the rest of the interwebs at large, lest it cause an influx in comments about chemtrails.

If anything, the RyanAir vortex clip (start of Wake Vortex Variety link) is incontrovertible proof that chemtrails is nonsense. Think about it, if RyanAir were spreading chemtrails, how come my ticket price doesn't include a chemtrail surcharge? The idea RyanAir would not tack on a bullshit surcharge for something is less believable than chemtrails themselves tbh.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 5:14 AM on April 8, 2015 [11 favorites]

The crosswind torment video is awesome: it reminds me of the exhilaration of a really violent landing.

My wife hates hates HATES to fly, so I have to be stoic and pretend not to notice rough stuff like this -- but secretly I want to whoop for joy when our plane comes in, slipping and sliding and shaking, before hammering down onto the tarmac. Yee-HAH!
posted by wenestvedt at 5:59 AM on April 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Pure crosswinds aren't too bad, it's the gusts and turbulence that get you.
posted by achrise at 7:28 AM on April 8, 2015

X-winds at BHX are truly special, because BHX really really really needs a crosswind runway and will never get one. The runway is 15/33, basically NW/SE, and when they get the SW winds, well, it's sort of exactly 100% wrong, ditto the NW winds.

They're currently extending the runway by moving the A45 south. Theoretically, they could build a crosswind to the south of the current airport, they'd have to bridge over the A45 and probably the M42, but the single fastest way to make sure you never be a member of parliament in the UK right now is to say you support expanding an airport, so that's not going to happen.
posted by eriko at 7:37 AM on April 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Aircraft have G meters that show forces at landing. Anything above a certain level for a particular type triggers a compulsory inspection - and if it's bad enough, a write-off. (If the top of the oleo is visible through the hole in the wing, you can skip the g meter check bit.)

Quite some pilot humour about the definitions of 'heavy' and 'hard' landings - if there's complete silence as you taxy to the stand, it's been a hard landing... or a heavy landing dents your pride, a hard landing dents the airframe.
posted by Devonian at 7:42 AM on April 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Lovely videos, thanks.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:53 AM on April 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Wow, mesmerizing videos. That's some awesome vortex-shedding.
posted by RedOrGreen at 8:17 AM on April 8, 2015

Even jaded pilots joke about how "sporty" crosswind landings can be. The long lenses in these videos are exaggerating the motion somewhat, it doesn't feel that extreme in the cockpit, but there's definitely a lot of yaw motion. The scary thing is the up and down motion, particularly that bouncing on "turboprop torment". The whole challenge of landing an aircraft is expending all that potential and kinetic energy; if you come in too fast or drop the plane too hard, you're gonna have a bad time. And if you try to salvage a shitty landing you might end up bending the airplane.

I learned to fly little planes in San Francisco where gusty afternoon winds are a regular thing. And naturally was scared of crosswind landings. My instructor was great though and cured me of it somewhat by just taking me out on a windy day to a runway with a 60° crosswind. And said "let's have fun with this, we'll go around if you have any trouble". With no pressure to actually land it became a lot more fun. That's when I learned to fly a plane a little like a video game. Most piloting is slow measured control inputs. But that last 20 seconds in gusty winds you really need to be dancing on the rudder pedals, responding quickly to changes. It can be fun as long as you are of the mindset you can always go around and try again or go to another airport.

If you're ever on a commercial flight that aborts a landing and goes around, thank your pilot afterwards. Passengers tend to see go-arounds as failures but it's a mark of a successful, smart decision in the cockpit. You'd rather be 10 minutes late than dead.
posted by Nelson at 8:18 AM on April 8, 2015 [9 favorites]

I don't want to get into a "flying, how does it work?" thing, but notice how the vortex shedding happens at the break of the flaps from the wing - the airflow along the wing just spills off there, destroying lift and thus helping the plane lose altitude. If the flaps weren't lowered, the flow would continue along the wing - that's related to why adding little winglets at the wingtips to help contain the vortices helped improve fuel efficiency by a significant amount. That's a NASA spin-off - your publicly funded science at work!
posted by RedOrGreen at 8:26 AM on April 8, 2015 [5 favorites]

I am reminded of The Butterfly Theory.
posted by Oyéah at 9:38 AM on April 8, 2015

I don't believe what you're seeing in those videos where there are "contrails" originating at the outbound edges of the flaps are the vortices one normally talks about when you're talking about "shedding". Although the lines coming off the flap tips could be called vortices the reason they are visible is that is an area where the air has gone through high pressure changes and water is condensing. There are other vortices spilling off the winglets and wingtips, but they aren't visible because those pressure changes happening there are not high enough to cause the condensation.
posted by achrise at 9:44 AM on April 8, 2015

If you're ever on a commercial flight that aborts a landing and goes around, thank your pilot afterwards.

Coming into SJC one night in a heavy wind from the South (which is backwards from normal for that airport), I noticed we were waaay too high for how close we were to the actual airport, and off the normal approach. I fly a lot into this airport, and this felt really wrong. The pilot hammered it to fight the winds and get down, and we did a touch-and-go back up into the wild blue. Mentally I was hoping he'd just say "fuck it" and land in Oakland or SFO, but he made it on the next pass.

I was heartfully thankful that he didn't try to be a hero on that first approach, and I made sure to tell him so afterwards.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 10:53 AM on April 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Watching the planes in the crosswinds just sort of float at low speed and keep trying to land makes me feel much better about air travel in general. I always envision the smallest crosswind at landing immediately leading to the plane turning over, exploding, skidding on fire for several miles, crashing through a glass factory, then the nail warehouse, and finally coming to rest in the local orphanage (which subsequently burns down).

Michael Bay is currently developing this post into a major motion picture.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 10:58 AM on April 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

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