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Watch: United Express pilot negotiates howling winds in harrowing landing

Landing a plane while batting the strong Oklahoma windBe careful when you’re driving home! The winds are pretty strong today. This is video captured from Bob Moore Chopper 4 of a plane battling the Oklahoma wind.

Posted by KFOR-TV on Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The same storm that dumped over a foot of snow in Denver and shut down Denver International Airport Wednesday, stirred up rip-roaring winds in the Southern Plains. These winds, gusting to 40-50 mph in Oklahoma City, created quite the adventure for a United Airlines Express flight landing at Will Rogers World Airport.

Video, above, captured by TV affiliate KFOR’s helicopter, initially shows the plane cruising along during its descent. But watch, in particular, the final 30 seconds of the video when things turn dicey.

It initially seems as if the plane is going to overshoot the runway, its nose pointed toward the adjacent grass. Then, for a moment, it appears stationary before the pilot compensates for the stiff crosswind and reverses the plane back toward the runway’s center in a maneuver known as crabbing.

The landing is a bit rocky, as the plane touches down with its wheels pointed askew, but the pilot quickly centers the aircraft and safely reaches the destination.

Randy Bass, a certified consulting meteorologist who specializes in aviation, offered this helpful account on what happened and how the pilot expertly handled the challenging situation:

I did a little checking and found the runway at Oklahoma City is … basically oriented north-south. The winds [Wednesday] afternoon at the surface were from the southwest at 20-28 mph, gusting to 40-47 mph. Winds in the lowest 1,000 to 3,000 ft above the surface were also from the southwest at about 40-50 mph.
Planes always land into the wind, so he was approaching the runway from the north. The pilot will try to fly directly into the wind for as long as possible, then turn at the last moment to line up to the runway for landing. That’s exactly what he did in this case. He was probably dealing with a crosswind around 25-30 mph, which is just about the threshold for many planes, especially smaller ones like that one. He did a great job of “crabbing” to compensate for the crosswind.
If he had tried to approach the runway straight on, the crosswind would have blown him off to the left of the centerline as he was trying to land. Chances are he would have been pushed off the runway with a high likelihood of an accident if he wasn’t able to abort the landing. He did exactly what pilots are trained to do in that situation.