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The importance of being a windsock

A windsock is a conical textile tube which looks like a giant sock and is designed to indicate wind direction and relative speed. The humble windsock may seem like a rather primitive tool to find out how windy it is, but it’s highly important and offers an extraordinary service. Here at Piggotts we have been building and installing windsocks in the UK for many years, so we know how valuable this simple tool is. To show you why windsocks are so valuable, we’re taking a look at the aviation industry and discovering why they are used so commonly within it.

Not all wind is created equal and there’s a lot more to it than simply direction and velocity. If you spent 30 seconds studying a windsock on several successive days, you’d realize that there are as many different types of winds as there are variations of rivers – from small and lazy to huge and angry. A quick glance at the sock will show you two big factors (direction and speed), but a few more seconds studying the sock’s behaviour will give you a much better understanding of the wind’s character.

Windsocks are only accurate within a small radius so if an airport has just one windsock at the mid-way point of the runway, the only thing you can be certain of is that the winds at either end won’t necessarily be the same. This is why so many airports have socks at both ends of the runway. The sock in the middle tells traffic which runway to use, but the sock at the end tells you what to expect on approach. This information is vital and can make or break a flight.

As a result of the narrow window between a plane taking off and landing, pilots and ground control staff have a lot of work to do. Looking at the windsock or asking the tower for a wind check while taking off or landing provides essential information for a safe flight. The combination of the windsock’s practicality and the technical brilliance of the tower ensure every flight is as safe as possible.

So there we have it. This little sock has a rather big job on its hands which it completes every day across the globe without fail. So next time you are at an airport and see one, just remember not to judge a book by its cover.

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