Runway number
Wind direction
Wind speed
Wind components:
Crosswind component
Headwind component

The crosswind calculator can help you find the crosswind, headwind, and tailwind components of the blowing wind. Whether you are a pilot, van driver, or race cyclist, you need to take crosswinds into account to travel safely. Read the text to learn what is and how to calculate the crosswind component. We will also explain how to use a crosswind component chart.

Wind components: crosswind, headwind, and tailwind

Wind affects the motion of vehicles and aircraft. Pilots have to consider wind components, especially while landing or taking off. There are three wind components:

  • Crosswind – wind component that blows from the side of the airplane;
  • Headwind – wind component that blows in the opposite direction to the aircraft motion; and
  • Tailwind – wind component that blows in the same direction as the aircraft motion.

The wind rarely blows pure crosswind or head/tailwind. Mostly it blows at a certain angle and can be separated into two portions – components. Some navigation instruments provide pilots with the wind components' values. If you don't have access to those, it's good to know how to calculate them quickly.

How to calculate crosswind component?

To find the crosswind component, you need to multiply wind speed by the sine of the angle between wind direction and the direction you're facing:

crosswind speed = wind speed × sin(α)

In this text, α is the angle of the wind from the direction of travel. This angle should be between -90 and 90 degrees.

Crosswind example

How to calculate headwind and tailwind component?

To find the headwind or tailwind component, multiply wind speed by the cosine of the angle between wind direction and the direction you're facing:

head(or tail)wind speed = wind speed × cos(α)

If the wind blows from the front, it's a headwind, and if from the back, it's a tailwind. The direction doesn't affect the equation.

Headwind example

How to use our crosswind calculator?

  1. First, pick the runway number. It can have a value between 1 and 36.
💡 The runway number represents the magnetic, cardinal directions: 36 – North, 27 – West, 18 – South, and 9 – East; and can be found painted on runways. It represents a plane's magnetic direction of travel.
  1. Second, type in the magnetic direction from which the wind is blowing.

  2. Finally, input the wind speed.

  3. The crosswind calculator will tell you the speeds of all acting wind components.


How to use crosswind component chart?

To use a crosswind component chart follow these few steps:

  1. Find the line with the value of an angle between the wind direction and the direction you're facing (it should be between 0 and 90 degrees).

  2. Follow that line until you reach the correct wind speed (the arches describe the wind speed).

  3. From this point go straight down to find the crosswind component, and straight to the left to find the headwind component.

What are tailwind and headwind?

Tailwind and headwind are wind components. Tailwind is the wind that blows in the direction of travel. Headwind blows in the opposite direction. There is also another wind component called crosswind. It blows from the side of an object.

Julia Żuławińska
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