A tricky landing at O’Hare

This video is gaining traction on the Internet today, purporting to show a landing that could have gone badly for this flight trying to land at O’Hare in windy conditions yesterday.

In aviation terms, it’s called a “crab” in which the pilot turns the plane into a crosswind to stay lined up with the runway despite the wind’s intention to push it away.

This plane landed sideways. Some jets have landing gear that pivot a bit to allow this, a testament to the strength of the airline fleet and a good set of tires.

In any event, about 70 flights were canceled at O’Hare yesterday because of the high winds.

Winds are expected to hit 37 mph at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport later today. Not to worry if you’re flying, though: They’ll be pretty much aligned with the runway.

Related aviation: 'ATC Zero': Inside the Chicago Center fire (AOPA).

  • raflw

    I’d say not to worry anyway. Crabbed landings are not that uncommon and US pilots are competent folks.

    • My 737-flying pals say they’re taught to hold the crab right to the ground rather than kick out of it, which would require lowering the wing to stay aligned, thereby risking dragging the engine nacelle.

      Easier just to order a new set of tires.

      • Chris Finlayson

        Transport Category aircraft have sturdier landing gear systems than light GA aircraft. Because of that they can take higher side loads than that of their smaller GA counterparts. That being said, probably still a good idea to land with the upwind gear first…

  • Robert Moffitt

    Hat tip to the pilots, just the same.

  • kevinfromminneapolis

    Man I’d love to be in one of those. The super long focus makes it look pretty cool.

    I saw a 747 attempt a less severe version a month or so ago at the airport. It ended up trying to straighten out then landed on one wheel on its left side. It probably needed a new tire. Smoky.

    • Jack

      As someone who was on a flight in 2005 attempting a landing in heavy cross-winds at MSP, I can tell you that I have no desire to ever be on another flight like that.

      The applause from the passengers when we finally landed (on attempt #2) was prolonged and it took longer than usual to deplane as everyone was thanking the pilots for their excellent flying.

      I’m a queasy flyer anyway and I didn’t want to get on a plane for a long time after that.

      • Jack

        Oh and for those of old enough to remember, the memory of the incident at Sioux City (plane cartwheeling down the runaway) is invoked every time we see a plane whose wings get too close to the ground.

        That’s what was running through my mind when I was on the flight in 2005 – bad time to be in a window seat.

        • kevinfromminneapolis

          I remember United 232 as if it was yesterday. The NTSB says the plane didn’t cartwheel, but actually spun down the runway. With the KCAU footage burned into our heads I don’t quite get how they could say that. Apparently Asiana 215 provided a similar illusion.

  • L. Foonimin

    kudos to the flight crew, but this is another reason against having the windowless airplane with the computer generated graphics on the interior as featured a few days ago …. not only would the aircraft need new tires but all the passenger seats would need to be replace or dry cleaned

  • LVegas123

    I was driving home from work on I 90 West yesterday at about 5:30 PM. I saw an airplane descend almost at a 90 degree angle towards the ground near O’Hare. It looked like it was going to crash and the entire ride home I was worried that it did, but it must have been a pilot maneuver to land the plane….

  • safetyman

    I guarantee he was over the crosswind limitation for that aircraft. I am a 27 year professional pilot

  • Sam Weigel

    Bob– On facebook I said I thought it was an AA 737, I since found out it was a Republic E175, a plane I have about 6000 hours in. Max demonstrated crosswind component is 38 knots, I’ve landed right at that several times (including on 27L at ORD, as shown here). There’s more than enough rudder authority at max demonstrated, and it was only 15-20 kts crosswind this day. I don’t think these guys actually landed with *that* much crab, maybe 5-8 degrees, the effect is greatly exaggerated by the highly zoomed lens from far away (note how 27L looks about 4000′ long and 400′ wide). It looks to me like they tried to kick out the crab with the rudder, without a corresponding upwind aileron input. Plane rolled left, wind got under the upwind wing, caught the downwind main wheel while still crabbed & sideloaded the snot out of it. Not great technique but most airliners are much more forgiving of hamfistedness than your RV7 or my Cub. It was windy everywhere that day, I landed in ATL twice right at the MD88’s max crosswind of 30 kts. First windy day of the fall gets everyone’s crosswind technique tuned up after generally light summer winds.

    • safetyman

      Sam,
      If the component was only 20 kts that was one of the worst x-wind landings I have ever seen. I see your point about the lens.