View Full Version : Entering the pattern question

03-28-2006, 01:15 PM
Ok, admittedly this is both Off Topic and a FAR/AIM question...

I got talking with another pilot and we ended up on this question.

He started off by saying that he thought the airport we were on was the worst, most undisciplined airport he had ever flown at. As evidence he said he saw people entering the pattern on the base leg every day.

I admitted that I did that myself if there isn't anyone else around (I often am approaching the airport from the ESE for landing on 28). I am pretty sure it is completely legal from a FAR/AIM point of view to do this. My recollection is that the only thing that is specifically illegal is to make a right turn while in a left-hand pattern and vice versa.

Anyone willing to back me up (or call BS)?


03-28-2006, 01:23 PM
Sometimes I'll do an overhead/pitchout even when not with a formation, if I'm coming relatively upwind toward the airport. Come in higher than TPA and use your judgment about what to do -- sometimes you can't just cut people off by breaking to the downwind. Other times, if the pattern is empty or light, you can.

I'm sure some people will disagree with this.

03-28-2006, 01:34 PM

I agree with you on both this post and the other one you just replied to.

I was looking for a legal answer (as in FAR X.X.X says...) in this case since both of these questions came up while the two of us were hanger flying.

When in doubt, I always do a 45 entry to a downwind, but if I am the only one up there, I don't see alot of value in flying an extra ten miles to end up on base anyway (and I could argue that there is as great a chance for a mid-air collision at the intersection of the 45 and downwind as there is at the downwind/base intersection).


03-28-2006, 01:35 PM
He started off by saying that he thought the airport we were on was the worst, most undisciplined airport he had ever flown at.

He's never flown out of Wattsonville on a busy weekend... :)

I remember reading this a couple of years ago, but can't remember where. It was in an advisory circular. Basically what it said was that the FAA "encourages" (that exact word stuck out in my mind, for some reason) airports to establish a standard traffic pattern, and pilots are "encouraged" to use this pattern. Also, it says that you "should enter downwind on a 45", or some such non-commital nonsense.

Also, there's a provision specifically for straight in approaches.

I take all this to mean: "We're not going to take your license away or fine you if you don't take our recommendations, but if you cause an accident, you're in deep trouble, mister."

Here's one thing that I *DO* like about the FAA: Most of the rules and regs are written as guidelines for people with a brain. I think the general rule is "If it's safe, by all means....use your judgement and when in doubt reference the AIM for guidance".

Just my opinion.

03-28-2006, 01:45 PM
AIM 4-3-3 Key to traffic pattern operations
1. Enter pattern in level flight, abeam the midpoint of the runway, at pattern altitude.1000' AGL is recommended pattern altitude unless established otherwise...)

These are guidelines. They are there to help standardize traffic flow around airports so that pilots have an idea where to look for and how to avoid traffic in the vicinity of an airport. If you violate these guidelines w/o good reason and cause a mid-air or near-mid air collision , guess what happens?

That is what I try to teach as a CFI. Do I sometimes enter the pattern in a crosswind or base? Yes. Herlong(28J) has 3 class D airspaces surrounding it to the west, southwest and southeast. Approaching from the northeast is the most common entry. For runway 25 or 29 I often enter the pattern in a crosswind entry. It is nearly impossible to fly around the airport and enter 45 degrees from downwind w/o excursions into the existing pattern or the surrounding class D airspaces.

Of course at tower controlled fields, you enter whereever you are directed. "Enter left base for runway 9." or "Enter right downwind for runway 9."