Entering the pattern and overflying airports

Discussion in 'Pilot Training' started by 4RNB, Nov 20, 2020.

  1. 4RNB

    4RNB Pre-Flight

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    So yesterday was my first solo landing at another airport. Everything went well, texted my CFI last night. Perhaps I need some improvement.

    All local airports are left handed patterns. The airport I was going to, the heading I was on was perpendicular to the runway I wanted to land on. Downwind traffic was nearest to me. I overflew the airport at about 1600 ft above elevation, turned 90 left (upwindish), turned 90 left onto crosswind at 100 ft, then continued as normal. My CFI texted "If u enter crosswind u may connect with traffic on takeoff turning crosswind." I get it.

    It would have been easier as I entered the airspace to not overfly and just enter 45 degrees into the downwind leg but I think I should assess the windsock and traffic before setting up to land.

    What do you do?
    What do you teach students to do?
    If I am going to overfly, how should I do things?

    Do I just fly >mile out, circle around far out and enter downwind?

    Graphic is basically what I did. land.PNG
     
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  2. eman1200

    eman1200 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Here ya go

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  3. texasclouds

    texasclouds Cleared for Takeoff

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    I would have communicated with the downwind traffic, entered down wind, and looked for the windsock on down wind. Also, could ask the other pilot what the sock is indicating as you approach the pattern.

    If you are number two to land and the number one pilot lands with a tailwind you aren’t comfortable with, go around, then on down wind cross mid field to enter the opposite runway pattern (assuming no other planes are still using the original runway). Communicate your intentions of course. And look out the window.
     
  4. FastEddieB

    FastEddieB Final Approach

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    It’s a matter of personal preference.

    I virtually always overfly the airport at 500’ above the pattern. This allows me to better view the windsock and look for wildlife on the runway and taxiing aircraft and other traffic in the pattern. Then I fly far enough away on the pattern side so as to be able to descend clear of the pattern and enter at the recommended 45°, midfield downwind. Works well for me, with very, very few conflicts with other aircraft.
     
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  5. Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe

    Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    If traffic is already using runway xx, just join the downwind for xx and look at the wind sock while you are on downwind.

    Oh, and at the home drome (ONZ) I never enter on the 45 to avoid crossing the border.
     
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  6. PaulS

    PaulS Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Part of flying is figuring out how to arrive at the airport, at pattern altitude. It takes some practice, working it out on the ground at home helps until you get used to figuring it out quickly. You'll get it all figured out, then start flying fast airplanes and have to figure it out again.

    Newer avionics will figure it out for you which simplifies things, but it's the same concept.

    Pretty much every airport has at least AWOS now, so you can get winds and altimeter setting from that. Even if the airport doesn't have weather, a nearby one will.

    From the diagram you drew, I would have entered the downwind on the 45 at pattern altitude, find the windsock on the downwind.

    If I need to overfly the airport, I do it mid field at pattern altitude and turn onto the downwind after I cross. If someone is in the downwind, I'll adjust to the crosswind, or circle if needed.

    You are going to find there is controversy over this and there are many methods to enter the pattern, but the situation you drew should just be a standard 45 entry IMO.
     
  7. David Megginson

    David Megginson Line Up and Wait

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    That is the default, recommended pattern/circuit entry in Canada and many other countries. You would cross the field at least 500 ft above circuit altitude, descend on the inactive side, then recross midfield at circuit altitude to join the downwind. It's (IMO) the safest way to join, because you see the whole runway and pattern/circuit in your window as you're approaching from the inactive side, instead of potentially converging at 45° with downwind traffic that's coming up behind faster than you, but that's a perma-debate like high wing vs low wing or iPhone vs Android. :) When I'm in the U.S. VFR, I use the 45° entry anyway, I figure it's still safest to do what the locals expect (even if it feels uncomfortable).

    Another U.S. pilot in a different forum suggested that the FAA has starting to suggest the overhead entry in the U.S. as well, but I haven't seen any confirmation of that, so I'd take it with a grain of salt.
     
  8. MacFly

    MacFly Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I think there are a lot of right, safe ways to enter a pattern, including that used by the OP in his example. In his example, I would have just entered a left downwind on the 45, assuming there was nothing untoward that I had heard on CTAF for the previous 10 miles, and that my intentions jived ok with other traffic enter entering or already in the pattern. Common sense, courtesy, and CTAF are the keys to safe pattern entry IMHO.
     
  9. PaulS

    PaulS Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Those keys, plus keeping your eyes peeled for the NRDO guy and the guy tuned to the wrong frequency.
     
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  10. Doug Reid

    Doug Reid Pre-takeoff checklist

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    What eman said !
     
  11. rk911

    rk911 Line Up and Wait PoA Supporter

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    this is what i was taught to do.
     
  12. EdFred

    EdFred Taxi to Parking

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    So you turn your back to the airport, and lose sight of everything. Sounds like a great plan.
     
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  13. 4RNB

    4RNB Pre-Flight

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    Thanks everyone so far.
    I'm not sure it matters but I knew this was the runway I was going to land at. Zero traffic. Winds negligible. I just thought I was supposed to overfly. I could easily have entered the pattern rather than overfly. Is there a best practice?
     
  14. eman1200

    eman1200 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    here ya go

    [​IMG]
     
  15. Dana

    Dana Pattern Altitude

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    You're not supposed to overfly the pattern, but you can if you feel it's necessary. If there's already traffic in the pattern, join the pattern and evaluate the wind by the way the airplane's behaving on final.
     
  16. PaulS

    PaulS Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Lol, for the situation you described I would say what Eman drew is the best way to do it. But as I said before, there are many different opinions. Personally my goal is to mix into traffic as smoothly as possible and get established in the pattern, specifically on the downwind, as efficiently as possible.
     
  17. FastEddieB

    FastEddieB Final Approach

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    True. I just modify that and try to descend so as to arrive 500’ above the pattern altitude 3 miles out. My 496 is programmed to do just that, and even provides a faux glideslope to follow.

    Descent profiles start to matter more as you fly higher. If you’ve got 15,000’ to lose and like to descend at 500fpm, you need to start descent 30 minutes out. Plan it wrong and you may bounce around in low level heat and thermals longer than desired. Or arrive at the airport way high.
     
  18. Brad Z

    Brad Z Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    OP, based on the diagram and the use of the word "circuit", are you in Canada? If so, the answer for POC will be different than POA.
     
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  19. snglecoil

    snglecoil Pre-takeoff checklist

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    @4RNB, check out AC 90-66. I think your decision to overfly the field is fine, especially if the winds were being reported as calm (or there was no weather reporting?) and there was no other traffic to fit in with. Personally, I would have just entered 45 to left downwind and verified wind sock/runway clear on downwind. But assuming I'm going overfly the airport and have a look at the runway first like you did, I would have continued outbound from the airport a couple of miles, turned around and descended to TPA to re-cross mid-field for a direct entry to left downwind. If you are going to do that, make sure you are at TPA crossing mid-field.
     
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  20. PaulS

    PaulS Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I should have said "desired" altitude.

    The VNAV button on the G1000 is like magic once you figure the damn thing out.
     
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  21. David Megginson

    David Megginson Line Up and Wait

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    Hoping you'll all be able to visit us in Canada soon when the pandemic's over. Here's the recommended practice for an uncontrolled airport up here, from the Transport Canada AIM (joining direct to downwind is advised only when you can confirm it won't cause a conflict; the overhead procedure is preferred).

    At my home airport, we have right hand circuits for Runway 27 and left hand for 09, so the downwind leg is always to the north of the field (you have to flip the diagram below upside-down in your mind to make it north-up). If you're arriving from the north, you stay at 1,700 ft (1,500 ft AGL), fly directly over the field and any aircraft in the circuit, descend and turn around on the south side, then cross directly overhead the middle of the runway at 1,200 ft (circuit altitude) then turn left to join the downwind for 09 or right to join the downwind for 27. The great thing is that when you're a mile south of the airport about to cross back overhead, you can see the entire circuit in your windshield (aircraft landing and taking off, crosswind, downwind, and base), so you always have excellent situational awareness.
    upload_2020-11-20_17-30-41.png
     
  22. wilkersk

    wilkersk Pattern Altitude

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  23. snglecoil

    snglecoil Pre-takeoff checklist

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    And I could see a case for switching the “preferred” and “alternate” methods. Overflying at TPA + 500’ still potentially puts you in conflict with large/turbine aircraft on a wide pattern at 1500’ AGL. That happened several weeks ago with an Citation trying to get into a pattern full of students. Not sure what frequency the jet was talking on but we watched him on ADS-B in a wide pattern and the only call he made on CTAF was the short final/go around since the rest of the pattern had no idea he was there.
     
  24. David Megginson

    David Megginson Line Up and Wait

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    Interesting. We don't have different circuit altitudes in Canada for turbine and piston. If a bizjet were landing VFR at an untowered airport without an MF and FSS, I imagine it would still just do a long straight-in with IFR style position reports on the way in. But the turbines usually seem to prefer IFR, even though it's not mandatory for them here (any more than it is in the U.S.).
     
  25. MikeNY

    MikeNY Filing Flight Plan

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    Last edited: Nov 20, 2020
  26. FastEddieB

    FastEddieB Final Approach

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    The “preferred” image that wilkersk posted is roughly my procedure.

    [​IMG]

    My one “modification” is that I don’t fly a full 2 miles out from the pattern. I base my descent on staying clear of a relatively tight pattern, which I realize adds a tiny bit of risk. Then again, flying out of gliding range of an airport you’re already over also includes some risk.

    Midairs are pretty rare and far down on the list of things that cause accidents. Hence, any given pilot flying any given pattern entry over an entire flying career will probably never fall victim to one. Hence, “I’ve been doing it my way for 30+ years and never had a problem” doesn’t carry a whole lot of weight with me.

    What I like to do is read about midairs in the pattern and ask myself, “Would my preferred method likely have avoided this accident?”. Often, the answer is “yes”. The FAA doesn’t always get it right, but I imagine they used a similar thought process in coming up with recommended pattern entries - based on voluminous data, which pattern entry, overall, provides the least risk.

    That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
     
  27. Clip4

    Clip4 Final Approach

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    The FAA’s recommended tear drop entry has a couple problems for students. If the student is not patient enough to create distance before the 270 degree turn, they are to close to the airport and possible over the runway after completion of the turn. The maneuver can also place them in situation where they are in conflict with traffic on the 45 entry and unable to visually see the traffic. I like the mid field cross better, but it is easy for a student on both entries to get behind the plane.
     
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  28. Clip4

    Clip4 Final Approach

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    Why weren’t you down to pattern altitude 4-5 miles from the airport so you could enter the 45?
     
  29. Domenick

    Domenick Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Personally, I like altitude. It's your friend. Generally, 4-5 nm out I'm at 1,500-2000 AGL. I can lose 500-1000' quickly and shortly at low speed.
     
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  30. FastEddieB

    FastEddieB Final Approach

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    Agreed. When a student would descend to pattern altitude many miles from the airport, I’d sometimes just pull the power and ask, “What now?” After he or she found a field or whatever, I’d ask, “Why not just glide to the airport?”, and the most common answer was, “We’re too low for that”. “Exactly” was my usual response, and I hope got my point across.
     
  31. sarangan

    sarangan Cleared for Takeoff

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    I don't see anything particularly wrong with what you did. I agree with what your CFI said, but what you flew was a midfield crosswind, so departing traffic should not be a factor. Most importantly, don't enter the traffic pattern until you have positively determined who else is there and their locations. Don't assume someone is where they say they are on radio.
     
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  32. PaulS

    PaulS Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Like anything though, it really depends on the situation. I fly into BED and I prefer to be at pattern altitude at least a few miles from the airport. In fact I've had the tower request I get to pattern altitude as soon as possible for turbine traffic.

    A few weeks ago, I was coming in, I had been on an IFR plan that I cancelled and was higher than usual. So I was descending, the tower was busy, I finally got to call about 6 or 7 miles from the airport. The controller asked me to stop my descent immediately, told me to report right downwind, look for a jet entering downwind at my 2 o'clock and follow him. So I leveled off at 2,300 feet and started looking, couldn't see him, so I looked at my traffic screen, got his location and saw he was at ludicrous speed on an intersecting course, 500 feet lower. So I looked back up and turned right to parallel his course opposite direction. As I began my turn, I saw him coming, I called him in sight and said I was maneuvering to get behind him. The controller told him I had them in sight. Just as I finished my turn, I was about a mile, maybe less from them as they were about to zip by my left wing they called me in sight. Then the pilot came on and told the controller they got an RA. The controller asked if they needed to respond to it, and the pilot said no. I turned back, got on the downwind and landed after them.

    Being at pattern altitude probably would have been better, as I would have been below them and I would have been going much slower. It also makes it easier to see traffic in the pattern rather than looking down into ground clutter.

    But generally I agree with you.
     
  33. MikeNY

    MikeNY Filing Flight Plan

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    vs.
    Crossing runway threshold [departure-end as OP illustrates] at TPA is not safest ... for aircraft potentially departing same runway.

    For original questions, CFI was correct and remains as previous:

    Consider standard or preferred alternate to enter pattern as published in Airport Operations/Traffic Pattern guidance.
    (links: Advisory Circular, AIM, ASI pub)
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2020
  34. AlphaMike

    AlphaMike Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I never liked ( fly over midfield at PA +500 then teardrop down and enter downwind) If everyone is flying 172s that’s fine, but what if a king air is on downwind? You are right there with him crossing his path.
     
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  35. MikeNY

    MikeNY Filing Flight Plan

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    Agreed, no need to cross/overfly for reason as described:
    Instead, listen (to AWOS and traffic self-announcing), and look (for traffic/check windsock on downwind after 45 entry).

    Agreed.
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2020
  36. SoCal RV Flyer

    SoCal RV Flyer En-Route

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    I'm a fan of the teardrop to the 45 (airport & approach direction-dependent). That descending tight turn bleeds off speed nicely.
     
  37. IK04

    IK04 Pattern Altitude

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    I will reiterate that IMHO, entering the pattern from the inside is dangerous and stupid. I doesn't matter if you do it from pattern altitude or even worse, descending.

    I stick to the way FastEddieB described above, except I would turn right 45 degrees outbound and make a left 180 degree turn to enter the 45 to downwind.

    I have had two near midairs at night because of people doing "unexpected maneuvers" in the traffic pattern.
     
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  38. Brad Z

    Brad Z Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    If I were king of the FAA and had full reign over rewriting the AIM, my preferred pattern entry method would be 45 degrees to the upwind, crosswind, and downwind, or straight in on final.

    In my opinion, the more maneuvering, the greater risk of accident. Overflying above pattern and doing a 270 turn opposite of the direction of turns in the pattern is IMO the least safe option. Just join the pattern from where you are.
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2020
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  39. Clip4

    Clip4 Final Approach

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    What did you do when they didn’t get down and were descending in the traffic pattern?
    “Entries into traffic patterns while descending create specific collision hazards and should always be avoided.”
    At 4-5 miles at 100 kts the time is 2.5 to 3 minutes. If you flying a plane you fear an engine failure in that time, I wouldn’t be teaching ground reference manuvers.
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2020
  40. FastEddieB

    FastEddieB Final Approach

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    I assume you meant “risk”.

    Maneuvering within the aircraft’s limits should not increase a pilot’s risk of an accident. At all. In my opinion, it’s the maneuvering that enhances a pilot’s view in all directions, much like clearing turns do prior to practicing maneuvers. In fact, one recurring accident cause is two “non-maneuvering” aircraft on straight-ins or long finals colliding - often a low-wing vs a high-wing invisible in each other’s blind spots.

    But in the end it’s all just a matter of personal preference. I have mine and you have yours, and both work most of the time.