Windy, Gusty Flight to Salt Lake City



The above was the wind component of the weather report for Salt Lake City airport for much of the day as I waited in my California hangar for the wind to die down.  Deciphered, it reads, wind from 310 degrees blowing at 36 knots, gusting to 48 knots.  Later I learned peak gusts hit 60 knots and blew a chartered Pilatus off the runway.  Heck, my stall speed is less than 58 knots, which means my plane starts to fly at 58 knots, which means my plane and a lot of other small planes would fly away without a pilot in 60 knot winds (they usually don’t fly far).


So I waited.


The weather forecast was guessing that the winds would start to die down between 6 and 7 pm, so I took off at 4:00 pm, about 2 hours flight away.  The winds were still strong at SLC, so I was really hoping the forecast was right.  As I got closer, I became anxious as the ground below me was literally getting blown away in a dust storm.  As you can imagine, the ride was not smooth, and I slowed down to maneuvering speed (turbulence penetration speed) for the last 100 miles.  I didn’t mind slowing down because it gave the winds time to die down as it got closer to sunset.


Fortunately the winds were only 20 to 30 degrees off the nose the airplane coming down final.  At that point the winds had died down somewhat, but were still blowing 25 knots, gusting to 35.  That is at the surface, and typically the winds are much stronger aloft, and sure enough when I powered down as normal when on final approach, it was taking forever to get to the runway and I was getting low.  My airspeed was normal at 100 knots, but my GPS groundspeed was 55 knots!  I powered back up to get to the runway.


Thankfully it was a long runway at SLC International airport, so I was able to take my time and push in rudder (my right foot) to straighten the plane out (I had approached in a severe crab), then use ailerons (your control wheel) to drop the upwind left wing down, slicing into the wind and literally causing the plane to land on one wheel.  As the plane slows and stops flying, I kept turning the control wheel left to put downward pressure on that upwind wing so that the wind wouldn’t catch it and flip the plane or push it off the runway.  I slowed to a crawl and limped over to parking, thankful it was over.


However my day wasn’t completely over.  In my focus on flying, I had forgot my suit jacket in my car.  My meeting was at 9:00 the next morning and it was an important one.  Fortunately, Google maps showed me the way to Macys, which didn’t close until 9:00 pm.  Problem solved and I made one lonely Macy’s salesperson very happy. 

Sandstorm down below - not what you want to see
Sandstorm down below – not what you want to see


SLC HDR2 (Large)
Glad to be on the ground in Salt Lake City

2 thoughts on “Windy, Gusty Flight to Salt Lake City

  1. Ney,

    Glad someone else is having fun too with this season’s weather!

    I’ve had two interesting approaches into the Bitterroot Valley to my home field of Stevensville the past couple of months.

    First one was a trip from Seattle with a Strong tailwind…making close to 220kts GSPD w/ a TAS of 165-170. Did not give the “wave” enough clearance letting down from 13k’ to field elev of 3600…pretty strong rollers over the mountains that shook us up pretty good. Caught me quite by surprise as it had been uber-smooth, but then came on quite suddenly…i should have known better.

    Second was the same run, again with a tailwind…i was ready this time…and wound up in a blowing snow cloud which was forming and dissipating as the air rolled over the mountain range down into the valley. Air was very smooth this time, but Huge downdraft. Gear out, 10 degrees flaps, slowed down quite nicely and setting up for RNAV approach…about 100kts, but all of a sudden i’m in a 2000 FPM descent instead of 500 FPM. Took a few seconds to sort that out, but no issues…had to go to almost full power to maintain 100+kts and halt the descent. yeeha!

    I enjoy your reports and always seem to learn something.

    Big Skies!

    Bob Peach

    1. Bob,

      Thanks for the comments and trip report. My worst turbulence experience ever over the Owens Valley near Mammmoth Mountain was the same situation. Windy, uber-smooth, should have known better, descended right into it.

      Thanks again, Ney

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