Chad Graves wrote:
I have always been told that the only time for a three point landing is in strong winds.
I don’t mean to be overly critical or contrary; but it’s just the opposite of what you said - in a tail-dragger you always do a wheel landing
in strong winds. Just think about it; you wouldn’t want to be flying near the ground when near or at the stall and at a high angle of attack with strong winds blowing. When an airplane is flying at or near the stall, it is in its most unstable condition and, accordingly, vulnerable to any kind of wind.
1. A sudden cross-wind gust could easily upset the aircraft when it is flying so close to its minimum airspeed. A wing suddenly dropping when so close to the ground could be catastrophic. Because the controls are sloppy and least effective at or near the stall, the pilot might not have enough control authority to correct it, even if using full throw.
2. A sudden cessation of wind speed, or a reversal of wind direction, whether vertical or horizontal (a wind shear), which occasionally occurs when the winds are strong, might in the case of a sudden horizontal wind change, cause a sudden loss of airspeed and with it a sudden loss of lift. This would cause the aircraft to suddenly drop. In a sudden vertical wind change, an aircraft could be violently thrown to the ground; one flying more slowly being that much more vulnerable to this. As you know, many horrible crashes of aircraft of all sizes and weights have been caused by this phenomenon. While under certain extreme conditions of this kind there is little a pilot can do, extra airspeed in the landing when the winds are strong is the best insurance against this kind of accident. The lower airspeed in a three-point landing is surely not going to give you that insurance.
3. A sudden increase of wind speed could cause the aircraft to rise because of the increased lift associated with the now increased airspeed. In this situation, with stick or yoke being held back, the nose would also suddenly rise because the increased airspeed has caused the raised elevator to suddenly become more effective. Now the aircraft’s angle of attack has suddenly increased, possibly to and possibly beyond the stall angle of attack, causing a stall or possibly a deep stall before a pilot can reduce the back pressure on the stick or yoke to correct the rising nose. So, here we have an aircraft at an increased altitude from the runway and in a stall. You do the math.
As you know, a wheel landing is done at a slightly higher airspeed than a three-pointer. This higher airspeed gives greater control authority and a buffer against the above situations because the aircraft’s greater airspeed causes it to be more stable and less susceptible to gusts and such. Additionally, in a wheel landing, the nose is at or near level, and the angle of attack is not at or very near the stall while the aircraft is in the air. Accordingly, unexpected wind conditions will not tend to cause a sudden unwanted increase of altitude which cannot be immediately corrected. In a wheel landing, the stick or yoke is held near neutral. A sudden increase of wind will not be as much of a problem with regard to increased elevator authority. Extra airspeed during a landing in strong winds will give the pilot increased control and ability to correct if the wind causes something unexpected or unpleasant to happen.
Of course, in strong winds, you must never lower your guard, particularly just after touchdown. That’s when ground loops occur. An airplane must be flown at all times until the engine(s) are off and it has been tied down.
Even when landing at a short field, a wheel landing will cause no problem when the winds are strong, even if you are landing at a slightly higher indicated airspeed. Assuming that you are landing into or nearly into the wind, your ground speed will be lower than your indicated airspeed. Lower ground speed will, of course, reduce your landing roll.
Regarding landing in a strong wind, we used to say: "Add five m.p.h. for the wind, and five m.p.h. for the wife and kids."