Sign in to follow this  
Great Ozzie

Simple Traffic Pattern Question

Recommended Posts

Quick question for the VFR gurus around here. What is the correct way to enter a traffic pattern from the far side of the airport, e.g. runway 36 has a left pattern, and I'm arriving from the east.Do I fly over the airport at pattern altitude to join the downwind? Would I typically get a specific instruction on how the controller would like me to enter the pattern (at a towered airport).Thanks!Jeff HepburnKDEN

Share this post


Link to post
Help AVSIM continue to serve you!
Please donate today!

If this is re: an actual VFR flight... let me first, ehem, renew my CFI liability insurance ;-)This has been a big subject of debate in years past, for non-towered fields. Of course you'll follow 91.103: "before beginning a flight, become familiar with all available information concerning that flight."So it is appropriate to check the current AIM: http://www.faa.gov/airports_airtraffic/air...c/publications/ (first link under "Manuals")The current Airport/Facility Directory: http://naco.faa.gov/index.asp?xml=naco/online/d_afdAdvisory Circulars such as 90-66 which you can find here: http://www.faa.gov/runwaysafety/cockpit.cfmAnd don't forget searching the AOPA website. They have an outstanding Safety Advisory "Operations at Nontowered Airports" http://www.aopa.org/asf/publications/sa08.pdf which I would consider a mandatory read.If it's a towered field, you should get specific instructions on where to enter and what to report (e.g. "report airport in sight"). I've been told to enter a right-downwind when most of the traffic was using a left-hand pattern. For your own sake, if in doubt about anything a controller has told you to do, ASK! Here's the AOPA Safety Advisory for "Operations at Towered Airports" http://www.aopa.org/asf/publications/sa07.pdf (again, something I would consider a mandatory read).Also... you can always call the specific facility, their Approach Control or Tower and see if they have a few minutes to discuss that with you (something I was too shy to do but I think it's a good idea).Btw, I hope the answer wasn't too complicated :-SRob O.

Share this post


Link to post

Hey Rob,Great answer, and I really appreciate the time you took to make it as informative as possible. Complicated? Yes, but if it were a yes/no answer, then it wouldn't have needed all the supporting commentary.No need to worry about the liability insurance...this is only as real as the electrons flowing through my computer and packets flowing back & forth to the vatsim network. To that end, most folks don't fly to non-towered airports on vatsim, so I think I'm ok to wing it. Just curious the to understand how to do it right.Take care!Jeff HepburnKDEN

Share this post


Link to post

Hey Jeff,Your welcome man... anytime.Yes, I hated to post such a crazy long explanation (and really it was mostly references) to a question where I wanted to say like, "Well dude, all you gotta do is..."It's always a dilemma for me to decide how much information to pass on... I mean there is so much, one can easily be overwhelmed (and turned-off by it all) but at the same time I know there is a certain minimum amount that needs to be communicated in order that the person's ear I'm bending has enough to accomplish a safe flight (as I was assuming it was an actual VFR flight). Most Mid-Air Collisions occur within 5 miles of a airport in day VFR conditions, so there is a lot to think about, prior to and upon entering a traffic pattern.Btw, I alluded to how I go about when I want to operate in the NAS (our National Airspace System) and have a question... FARs first, Govt. Pubs (like the Airman's Information Manual) and then the AOPA website. This VFR Traffic Patter Arrival Procedure is a perfect example. Very little is said about it in the FARs, and precious little more in the AIM/ACs. One really has to go to the AOPA Safety Advisory to get a decent idea of what is considered a safe procedure for entering the pattern from the "other" side. Those are the true "gurus": those guys spend their days just figuring out the "best/safest" way. I have used the examples as was shown in Figs. 9 and 10 for the "Non-Towered" Safety Advisory... it's hard to go wrong following AOPA's advice.It just occurred to me that this Fig. 10 idea may come from NDB or VOR circle-to-land approaches. You can see a good example of this in the "Dutch Harbor Approach" mission ( http://naco.faa.gov/d-tpp/0801/06367NA.PDF for the current NACO approach plate; I've always preferred them over Jeppesen). To get a better visual of this you might try altering the mission to say the Fair Wx theme with your favorite plane.You can see that (if you follow the inbound course and fly over the NDB) you'll end up entering a mid-field downwind for Rwy 30 from the "reverse" 45 degree (left turn instead of right and from the opposite side of the field). I do wonder how much traffic does come from the SW at Dutch Harbor.One place I can guarantee you will get traffic from the East entering a mid-field downwind when you're coming in from the west... If you fly the VOR-A circling to land to Rwy 21 at Indianapolis Eagle Creek ( http://naco.faa.gov/d-tpp/0801/05733VGA.PDF ) you will fly right over the center of the field (on-course that is).Fwiw, I want to say that I feel it is very commendable that you have an interest in doing things the "right" way... IMO it takes effort to do that and it shows a healthy respect for Aviation Safety and the NAS in general. And this should, by no means, be interpreted or construed as I am some sort of stick-in-the-mud when it comes to FSX and having fun... where else e.g. can you try to fly an ILS inverted :-PRob O.

Share this post


Link to post

I was taught to fly over mid field ABOVE pattern altitude to join the left downwind at a non towered field in the simple situation you describe. The tower controller will advise at the towered field although you can make requests.:-)I remember being given straight in to 36 at a towered field and then diverted on a 1 mile final for a left downwind for 22. The incoming corporate jet for 22 could have been at the intersection of 22/36 about the same time that I would have been there....

Share this post


Link to post

Hey Rob,Not sure I completely understand the dutch harbor example, but I'll fly it and see what happens next weekend after getting back from my business trip.I did have a question about the eagle creek example. I want to make sure I understand how you would fly the circle to land based on the chart.Here's how I would do it...If arriving from the east, I would fly direct VHP, then outbound on 076 radial, followed by a procedure turn to fly inbound on the same radial. From that point, since RW21 is a left pattern, I would overfly the field to join the left downwind and, of course, circle to land)?One interesting question I had regarding these types of approaches with procedure turns. With inbound/outbound traffic on the same raidal, aren't there potential altitude conflicts? Is it always just towers responsibility to maintain vertical seperation? Again, thanks for the help.Jeff HepburnKDEN

Share this post


Link to post

Hey Ron,The thing I don't like about entering above the traffic pattern and immediately joining downwind is (if this is what your instructor meant)... this is the classic setup for a (low-winged) aircraft descending onto another (high-winged) aircraft:"One of the most critical collision situations is a faster low-wing airplane overtaking and descending onto a high-wing aircraft while on final approach." www.scott.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-071018-019.ppt I would always teach to be at the published TPA (if there was one in the A/FD) or 1000' AGL when entering, or if one did want to overfly to observe the windsock/traffic etc. (be at the recommended 2000' AGL) continue on out the pattern, then once well clear make the decent and turn back to make a standard entry (like that example in Fig. 9 in the Nontowered SA). When arriving from the West, I would overfly Indpls. Terry (TYQ - Indpls. Executive now) this way when glider operations were going on west of 18-36 to enter the left traffic pattern for 18.Eagle Creek is situated between the inner and outer ring of the Indianapolis Class C Airspace, so overflight there is not possible without first establishing radio communication with IND APPCON.Btw Ron, I agree sir that it can be a simple procedure, it

Share this post


Link to post

Ozzie, I defer to your superior knowledge. You've covered all the bases when you advised knowing all the details about the destination.I'm only answering to the question regarding non towered overflight approach. My instructor taught to be above the local pattern altitude before entering the downwind and of course see and avoid along with proper calls and monitoring of CTAF or appropriate frequency.In general, a call with intentions and close monitoring for traffic is required for one to be reasonably certain he is operating with safety in mind. The instructor also emphasised the importance of never taking pattern entry for granted.:-)

Share this post


Link to post

That's what I was taught in the UK many years ago. Overfly the airfied 1000' above the circuit heigh to the 2dead" side and then begin a descent to circuit height, crossing the takeoff end of the runway in use at circuit height.

Share this post


Link to post

Well Jeff,Whether VFR or IFR, if (and when) I was practicing the VOR-A there, I would be talking to ATC... in this case Indianapolis Approach Control because:1) I would be anyway (on an IFR arrival) and the practice is a good thing. It may sound weird, but I preferred to work with ATC whenever I could. When going X-C, I would file an IFR flight plan unless I had a really good reason to file just VFR. One can do a combo of that (a "Composite" flight plan but... another topic for another day).2) They will provide "Safety Alerts" as able e.g. an Aircraft Conflict Alert and will provide advisories on other known traffic in the area IF they are able.3) I would have to in the case of the EYE VOR-A if I am going to comply with the charted minimums (at least up to the VOR inbound to Eagle Creek) as that puts me inside IND Class C Airspace.So with regards to the conflicts with "inbound/outbound traffic" IND APPCON will be providing heading and altitude assignments to maintain separation with other aircraft. Of course, whether one is IFR or VFR, weather permitting, the pilot is responsible for "See and Avoid" and one needs to be extra vigilant at places like VORs (where a/c funnel in). What you'd do is request direct to the VOR to fly the "full" approach and Indy Approach will most likely oblige. Then fly just as I think you meant (outbound on the 256 degree Radial sends you out to do the procedure turn; outbound on the 076 degree Radial sends you to Eagle Creek). At some point you'll get the "Radar service terminated, change to advisory frequency approved". The approach allows one to descend to about 450' AGL, but on a practice approach to landing, I would most likely stop descent some time before that unless I had a good reason to continue (like the student needs and is ready for that, and the airport is basically dead). On that approach, at 90kts (common for SEL aircraft), you have just 2min 20secs to shed a 1000' (or 3.5 DME to the missed approach point i.e. ~ the center of the field) so there's really no time to goof around on your descent once you hit the VOR (the FAF).The "circle to land" part is just flying a normal pattern in the case of Rwy 21. "Eagle Creek Traffic, Warrior Two Niner Yankee entering mid-field crosswind Runway 21" and yes you just make that left turn onto downwind. You'll see a similar pattern entry to Rwy 30 if you fly the NDB-A into Dutch Harbor.I was going to end this with a joke about my long winded-ness

Share this post


Link to post

Hey Ron,If I sounded "superior" it certainly wasn't my intent... I am "just a voice in the chorus".When I first learned to fly I did what my instructor told me... nothing more, nothing less. With more instructors (and this is going to sound stupid but that was me) I realized I could pick and choose how to conduct certain flight operations based on what I thought was the "best" way to do something. I became an amalgamation of them!So yeah... I try to cover all the bases. I try to explain what I believe and backup with why so that my flying compadre can be like, "wow, yeah I can stick that bit of info in my 'toolkit' for later use". Yes, rare is the occasion when I provide an abbrv.'d response. LOL

Share this post


Link to post

And a very good voice Rob. I'm at IH2 which is not nearly as complex airspace so defered to your experence at a more complex area.Safety minded pilots and students will benefit from both our posts so thanks for posting:-)

Share this post


Link to post

Thanks Ron... I try...Btw is that I a roman numeral one in IH2... so that would be Effingham Co.?Rob O.

Share this post


Link to post

>Thanks Ron... I try...>>Btw is that I a roman numeral one in IH2... so that would be>Effingham Co.?>>Rob O.Yes, Effingham Memorial Airport. I'm guessing you are over at Eagle Creek?

Share this post


Link to post

"The thing I don't like about entering above the traffic pattern and immediately joining downwind is (if this is what your instructor meant)... this is the classic setup for a (low-winged) aircraft descending onto another (high-winged) aircraft:"As I was taught (see my other post) the descent to circuit heigh is made on the dead-side of the airfied starting at 100ft above circuit height. A turn is made onto the cross wind leg to overfly the takeoff end of the runway still at circuit height. This obviously gice adequate separation from aircraft that are taking off.The only conflict is when making the left turn onto the downwind leg but this should be with aircraft already in the circuit at the same height and approaching from your right.

Share this post


Link to post

Was, yes... most of my instructing was done out of there but I had the good fortune of being able to work out of Indpls Terry also (TYQ - Indpls Executive now).It is a nice place to be since there is a very good mix of airports from Boone Co. (6I4 3600x30... which feels like a long carrier) to Indpls Intl. which is a blast to fly into at nite (with the CATII/III lighting systems for 5L/5R). It also gives you an opportunity to work with ground/tower/approach controllers. The Class C airspace was never a hassle; I mean arriving/departing Eagle Creek I was like the proverbial chameleon with one eye scanning for traffic and the other caged to the altimeter. If you were careful it was never a problem. And the benefit was if you wanted an extra set of eyeballs, Indy Approach could oblige you most of the time.Rob O.

Share this post


Link to post

Yes mgh... I saw your post... and I have read a variation of this is done in New Zealand.Like I said, this topic has been a big subject of debate for years and even today, if you ask 10 different flight instructors you will most likely get 10 different answers.And again I will say it can't be done in a practical sense at every airport... Eagle Creek Airpark (EYE) being a good example because:That will require one to contact Indpls App Con as it puts you in the Indpls Class C airspace. Then they will vector you to a point where they feel they can safely "release you". To me of greater importance is the FAA Advisory Circular, AC90-66A, 'Recommended Standard Traffic Patterns and Practices for Aeronautical Operations at Airports Without Operating Control Towers' states in paragraph 8(:( that "Arriving aircraft should be at the appropriate traffic pattern altitude before entering the traffic pattern." Therefore, descent from higher to TPA in the traffic pattern is a non-standard procedure.Also I can say with relative certainty that you won't be allowed to overfly the airport toward the SW so that you can descend and reverse course, as this puts one in the approach path of KIND's Rwys 23R and 23L.You will find there are pro and cons to any variation of arrival procedure. For example, the primary one I would use at Eagle Creek coming in from the Northwest over the Reservoir (at TPA... mid-field crosswind to left turn onto downwind for Rwy 21) bothers me a bit because of the possibility of meeting traffic head on (those making the standard entry as diagramed in the AIM even though this risk is very low). However, the benefits are: 1) I have a better shot at seeing inbound IFR traffic making a straight-in to Rwy 21 if they go missed or circle to land, 2) I can certainly see departing traffic, 3) I should have no problem entering (and it was never a problem) if I need to allow for spacing from an aircraft that has departed and 4) Most importantly, the procedure has been established by AOPA (they work closely with the FAA for these kinds of things) and it's published in their Safety Advisory. "A turn is made onto the cross wind leg to overfly the takeoff end of the runway still at circuit height. This obviously gice adequate separation from aircraft that are taking off."Not necessarily; at some airports one needs to watch for departing turbine aircraft. This is certainly the case at Eagle Creek."The only conflict is when making the left turn onto the downwind leg but this should be with aircraft already in the circuit at the same height and approaching from your right."No sir, this in not accurate. A conflict can arise anywhere in the pattern. You should always check to your right before turning left no matter where you are in the pattern. As I said above: "One of the most critical collision situations is a faster low-wing airplane overtaking and descending onto a high-wing aircraft while on final approach." Most mid-air collisions occur on final approach.This is all about conducting a safe flight (not about what

Share this post


Link to post

Here in Europe, the standard procedure for joining the circuit pattern is the 'Standard Overhead Join' http://www.caa.co.uk/docs/33/srg_gad_oheadjoin_poster.pdf - Fly overhead the field at 2000ft, with the runway on your left (for a left-hand circuit). If the opposite runway is in use, make a 180 degree left turn, staying at 2000ft to be overhead the correct runway, again with the threshold on your left. Now make a 180 degree descending turn on the 'dead' side of the circuit, to cross the runway again at circuit height, "crosswind". Then follow the circuit as normal. The diagram probably explains it better!This is the standard join (hence the name), although local procedures may vary. Such variations will be published in the flight guides, charts and so on. Your options when approaching from the dead side are essentially * circle overhead in the circuit direction until you have determined the runway in use, and continue circling until you can descend on the dead side. NEVER descend on the active side of the runway!* If the runway is known, you could fly overhead the reciprocal runway, turn through 180 for a standard overhead join, or join on the crosswind leg. Some places (typically towered fields) might even allow for a right base join.Of course you should always pay consideration to other traffic - this is simply good airmanship. Listening on the radio will give you a clue to what is going on, but bear in mind that aircraft may be non-radio, and nothing beats the Mk 1 eyeball.

Share this post


Link to post

Ok mgh... I think I owe you a "half apology" as...Tim's picture crystallized what you were referring to and I was speaking strictly from a U.S. procedures standpoint. I mean I stick by what I say, but at the same time I have no clue regarding mid-airs in the UK.Btw, Thanks for that link Tim. This appears to be a very "clean" method and a much more appropriate/organized way of pattern entry.For everything that the govt. (here) and private organizations like AOPA do to enhance safety, this lack of a standardized Traffic Pattern Procedure is one area I feel where we are sorely lacking. I mean there a literally a dozen ways to Sunday for traffic pattern entry in the U.S. and no real standardization for a single TPA (traffic pattern altitude). My understanding is Turbine aircraft use 1500' AGL, 1000' is recommended for light a/c unless otherwise published in the A/FD, then it could be anything... years ago the standard was 800' AGL (which I knew many who used that). It's a mess (to me) and one big reason why I think there are so many mid-airs.Adopting this "Standard Overhead Join" would go a long way to improving safety imo. There's are issues like overlying (Class C and :( airspace and aircraft using IFR approaches in VMC, but certainly something could be worked out as I am sure it has been in the UK.Rob O.

Share this post


Link to post

No problem. Misunderstandings happen and can be resolved like this in a civilised fashion. Tim explained the position more clearly than I did.

Share this post


Link to post

There are plenty of airfields that either modify the standard, have right-hand circuits or don't allow overhead joins, usually due to noise sensitivity, terrain or airspace considerations. We don't have any Class B or C , but we do have Class A down to 2500ft around London, and several GA airfields actually inside the Class A Heathrow CTR, where obviously, special procedures apply.

Share this post


Link to post

I used to fly from Fairoaks which is one of the GA airfields. This is withinn the London CTR which is Class A from SFC to 2500ft there. Aircraft using are deemed to have been given a Sprecial VFR clearance and must use a specially defined corridor on approach and departure.

Share this post


Link to post

Ah no mgh.... this is totally on me... my mouth engaged before my brain did ;-)Thanks for saying that tho... makes me feel like less of an idiot :-D(Btw let's blame Jeff, as he's the one who started this "simple" thread" :-DDD. j/k of course).Rob O.

Share this post


Link to post

Hey, easy there!I'm finally back and trying to find time to fly. It's been a long few weeks. I'm hoping to resurrect this thread over the weekend with more questions...haha!Jeff HepburnKDEN

Share this post


Link to post

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this