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Crosswind Calculator

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Crosswind Calculator 101

As every pilot and student pilot knows, a crosswind calculator is a tool used to determine the crosswind component prior to taking off, landing, or during a flight. Consequently, calculating the crosswind component is crucial for clean take-offs, accurate navigation, and smooth landings.  Not being able to accurately calculate the crosswind component can result in anything from minor navigational errors to serious mishaps. 

There are different types of crosswind calculators available, including manual and electronic versions. Manual calculators are typically small, handheld devices that use a slide rule or trigonometry to make calculations. Electronic crosswind calculators are software programs and apps that can be run on computers, tablets, or smartphones.

How Crosswind Calculators Work

Unless the direction of take-off, flight, or landing is directly into wind (or in the same direction as the wind), there will always be a crosswind component.  To determine the crosswind component, pilots obviously need to know the wind speed and direction, as well as the ground speed or track of the aircraft. Wind speed and direction can be obtained from TAFs and METARs, and is included in the transmissions from the control tower:  “Cleared to land/depart. Surface wind is 250 degrees, 8 knots”.

By adding the wind speed and direction, and the runway direction or track, the calculator should instantly display the crosswind component and the pilot can then take the appropriate amount of remedial action to compensate for it.

There are a number of factors that cannot be revealed by any calculator, including turbulence, gusts, and wind shear. Pilots need to be aware of these factors and make necessary adjustments to their piloting. Additionally, sudden changes in atmospheric pressure and temperature can also affect wind speed and direction, which can further complicate crosswind calculations that were compiled earlier, as part of pre flight planning, for example. 

The Different Types of Crosswind Calculators

Manual crosswind calculators are small, handheld devices that use a slide rule or trigonometry to make calculations. These calculators are typically lightweight and easy to use, making them a popular choice for pilots. They are also relatively inexpensive, making them a cost-effective option for pilots on a budget.

Electronic crosswind calculators, on the other hand, are typically software programs that can be run on a computer or tablet. Some of the more detailed calculators offer more advanced features and capabilities, such as the ability to store multiple sets of data and make calculations quickly. 

Electronic crosswind calculators also usually have a user-friendly interface, making it easy to input and view data. These calculators are more expensive than manual crosswind calculators but they are popular among professional pilots as they offer more advanced features and capabilities.

Pros & Cons

In terms of pros and cons, manual crosswind calculators are simple to use, easy to carry and inexpensive, while electronic crosswind calculators offer more advanced features and capabilities, but they are more expensive and require electricity or battery power to operate. 

Ultimately, the choice between a manual or electronic crosswind calculator will depend on the individual pilot’s needs and preferences. Some may prefer the simplicity and low cost of a manual calculator, while others may prefer the advanced features and capabilities of an electronic calculator.

Our Pick
Asa E6-B Flight Computer (Includes Crosswind Calculator

ASA E6-B Flight Computer

The E6B Circular Flight Computer is the ultimate tool for pilots. It’s high-quality construction and easy-to-read lettering make it the most efficient, accurate, and convenient manual flight computer available. Whether you’re performing basic arithmetic and flight planning problems or complex in-flight computations, this computer has got you covered.

The calculator side of the computer uses conventional slide rule procedures to solve for multiplication, division, and unit conversion and employs scales for performing time, speed, distance, rate, fuel consumption, altitude, airspeed, air temperature, and pressure pattern calculations. The wind side of the computer provides a graphic method of solving problems and displaying the answers in a useful form. Use the wind side for simple addition and subtraction problems and also to solve for true wind, winds in flight, true course and ground speed, true heading and true airspeed, and off-course correction calculations.

Whether you’re in flight planning, flight training or studying, the E6B Circular Flight Computer is a great tool to use and may be used during FAA written knowledge exams. Pilots flying faster aircraft at higher altitudes will find this computer incredibly useful in gaining insight to the external atmospheric conditions and the effects they have on in-flight performance.

How to Use a Crosswind Calculator


Using a manual crosswind calculator is relatively simple. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Determine the wind direction and speed. This information can be obtained from a weather report or by using an anemometer.
  2. Set the wind direction on the calculator by aligning the arrow on the calculator with the wind direction.
  3. Set the wind speed on the calculator by using the slide rule or dial to match the wind speed.
  4. Determine the ground speed and track of the aircraft. This information can be obtained from the aircraft’s navigation system.
  5. Align the ground speed and track with the corresponding scales on the calculator.
  6. The crosswind component will be displayed on the calculator.


Using an electronic crosswind calculator is also relatively simple, here are some tips to follow:

  1. Make sure to input the correct wind direction and speed.
  2. Also, input the correct ground speed and track of the aircraft.
  3. Be aware of the different units of measurement (e.g. knots, mph, km/h) and make sure you’re using the right one for your calculations.
  4. Some electronic crosswind calculators have a built-in wind correction angle calculator, which can be helpful to use as well.
  5. Some electronic crosswind calculators also allow to store multiple sets of data, which can be useful for comparing different wind conditions.

To obtain accurate results when using a crosswind calculator, it’s advisable to cross check the results with another calculator.  For example, check the results produced by an electronic calculator with those produced by an analogue calculator, and vice versa. 

What is the rule of thumb for crosswind calculation?

The rule of thumb for calculating crosswind in aviation is often referred to as the “Rule of Three” or the “10% Rule.” It is a quick and relatively accurate method used by pilots to approximate the crosswind component when landing or taking off. The rule is particularly useful when there’s limited time to perform calculations, such as during final approach or while communicating with air traffic control.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Determine the Wind Angle: The first step is to determine the angle between the aircraft’s heading (or runway orientation) and the wind direction. For example, if the runway is oriented at 360 degrees (North) and the wind is coming from 030 degrees, then the wind angle would be 30 degrees.
  2. Calculate 10% of Wind Speed: The next step is to calculate 10% of the total wind speed. If the wind is blowing at 20 knots, 10% of that would be 2 knots.
  3. Multiply by Wind Angle Factor: Multiply the value obtained in step 2 by the factor corresponding to the wind angle. For most practical applications in general aviation, the factors are simplified as follows:
    • For a wind angle of 30 degrees, the factor is 5.
    • For a wind angle of 45 degrees, the factor is 7.
    • For a wind angle of 60 degrees, the factor is 9.
    • For a wind angle of 90 degrees, the factor is 10.

For example, if the wind speed is 20 knots and the wind angle is 30 degrees, the approximate crosswind component would be: 2×5=102×5=10 knots.

What is the rule of 6th crosswind?

The “Rule of 6th” is another method for estimating crosswind components. This technique is considered to be quite accurate and is particularly useful when quick decision-making is required, such as when sudden changes in wind conditions occur.

Here’s how the Rule of 6th works:

  1. Determine the Wind Angle: Identify the angle between the runway heading and the direction from which the wind is blowing. This is your wind angle. For example, if you’re landing on a runway oriented at 270 degrees and the wind is coming from 300 degrees, the wind angle is 30 degrees.
  2. Calculate 1/6th of the Wind Speed: Take the wind speed and divide it by 6. For example, if the wind speed is 18 knots, dividing by 6 gives you 3 knots.
  3. Multiply by Wind Angle Factor: Multiply the result from step 2 by the wind angle, then divide by 10. For a wind angle of 30 degrees, this would be 3×30/10=93×30/10=9 knots.

So, in the given example, the estimated crosswind component would be approximately 9 knots, which is quite accurate for most practical purposes.

The Rule of 6th is an alternative to other methods like the “Rule of Three” and it tends to yield results that are close to actual calculated values. It is particularly well-suited for rapid estimations and complements the more comprehensive calculations that might be available through an aircraft’s avionics system.

In Summary

In summary, crosswind calculators are essential tools for pilots to determine the crosswind component during a flight. These calculators can be either manual or electronic and they use wind speed, wind direction, ground speed, and track of the aircraft to determine the crosswind component. It’s important for pilots to be aware of the factors that can affect crosswind calculations such as turbulence, gusts and wind shear.

Using a crosswind calculator is crucial for safe flying. It helps pilots to navigate and land safely in crosswind conditions. By determining the specific crosswind component, pilots can make necessary adjustments to their flight plan, ensuring a safe landing.

There are various additional resources available for pilots to learn more about crosswind calculations, such as books, online tutorials, and flight schools. Pilots can also consult with other experienced pilots and instructors for further guidance. By learning more about crosswind calculations, pilots can better understand the importance of using a crosswind calculator and how to use it correctly to ensure safe flying.

Crosswind Calculator - Which Way Is The Wind Blowing?
Which Way Is The Wind Blowing?

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