While We're Talking About Aircraft in Crazy Winds

Following this item about the Italian glider pilot who stayed aloft for 11+ hours over the Alps, two related bits of news.

First, thanks to reader CF,  this impressive video of a Lufthansa Airbus managing a crosswind landing yesterday in Calgary, Alberta, where the "Chinook" winds were gusting at up to 80 mph. The winds were so strong that the videographer couldn't hold his camera steady, making for a shaky video. But you will very clearly get the idea. (Clip is only 40 seconds long, with the real action in the second half.)

Pilots will recognize this as a skillful execution of the "crab into kick" crosswind landing technique, with emphasis in this case on crabbing right down to the instant of touchdown because of the force of the wind. For explanations of what that all means, you can see this page from Wolfgang Langewiesche's famous Stick and Rudder (yes, father of William L). Other useful descriptions of the technique here, here, and on a professional pilots' discussion site here.

Second, reader MA, who works in the aircraft business, said that he sent the video of the 11-hour Italian glider flight to his paragliding friends:

The first thing the PG pilots noted with some envy is that it's relatively easy for sailplane pilots to relieve themselves in-flight with a tube or bottle. It's not so simple for PG pilots. I personally had to end my longest flight (5.5 hours, 94.5 miles of flatland thermal flying in eastern WA state) by choice because my bladder was going to explode if I didn't land. My friend flying with me flew 112 miles because he's an ER doctor accustomed to holding it in for an entire shift!

I've never gone as far as kitting up with a condom catheter for big cross-country days but many pilots do in competitions where the tasks can be over 100 miles (in a PG with an avg speed of 20mph, that's a day's work). But the seriously gnarly are the female comp pilots who are known to wear Depends...

My favorite ridge-running site is in B.C.'s Fraser valley. There's about 20 miles of spectacular alpine ridge that you can go up and down all day when the wind is right. The only difficulty is staying out of the clouds on thermic days.

Now you know. More about UC Davis, the TSA, the filibuster, Gmail security, unusual "first" names, and similar topics tonight.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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