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Video - When air traffic gets the wind up

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Strong gusting winds can completely ground airliners. The wind direction and strength are measured by electronic sensors located on the edges of the runways.

To help it in taking-off, and above all on landing, an aircraft must preferably face into the wind, however, where the wind changes, and turns perpendicular to the axis, or centre-line of the runway, it is called a “crosswind”, which can paralyze air traffic; but above what limits precisely ? In fact, it depends.

Firstly, all aircraft manufacturers fix their own, not to be exceeded, structural and controllability limits, which vary depending on the type of aircraft.

Philippe Grossi, Head of Operations - French Civil Aviation Authority (Blagnac): "A light small plane, of the Cessna / Robin type, will be relatively limited by cross-winds of the order of 17 mph (27 km/h). A large airliner has maximum crosswind limits of around 47 mph (75 km/h)."

But this primary limitation is a maximum indication. Airlines in fact often operate with a self-imposed extra margin of safety and choose to reduce this figure. A plane controllable in a 35 mph (55 km/h) crosswind, may thus be limited by the carrier to 28 mph, (45 km/h)and even if the maximum limit set by the company is not exceeded, the pilots are under absolutely no obligation - the ultimate decision is left up to them.

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