midfield flyover and tiny wind socks

Discussion in 'Pilot Training' started by pilotod, Mar 27, 2012.

  1. pilotod

    pilotod Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I've been wondering a couple of things about flying to an airport. If navigation leads you to the center of the airport do you then fly over midfield at 1000' to get into the pattern or do you maneuver right before the airport to get in the pattern?

    Second question, if you want to observe the windsocks and find them way too small at 1000' what do you do to get a better look? Do you circle until you got them found and figured out? And when you throw the midfield flyover into this do you flyover at 1000' and then maneuver in circles around the airport to observe the socks? This is assuming a small airport where there's no traffic but maybe a cow or two nearby.
     
  2. Sac Arrow

    Sac Arrow Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Personally, I try to establish the wind direction before I get there from other clues, i.e. nearby AWOS or CTAF calls, dust movement, GPS groundspeed vs. TAS (if so equipped) etc.

    If I must overfly the pattern to get a look at the wind sock, I'll do it at 1,500 mid field, and if I just can't see the windsock I'll take my best guess and go around if it's apparent that won't work out. Usually, if you can't see it, it's calm enough the sock is limp and it won't matter anyway.
     
  3. John221us

    John221us En-Route

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    The mid-field flyover should be at least 500' over pattern (usually 1500' AGL). You should be able to see the windsock, if not, do another pass, until you do or look for other indications of where the wind is, such as smoke. Standard pattern entry is a 45 to downwind. If there is no traffic, sometimes I will do an overhead entry into downwind.
     
  4. poadeleted20

    poadeleted20 Deleted

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    On the first question, many instructors including myself discourage flying directly over the field at TPA because there is too much chance of conflict with traffic already in the pattern or entering on the 45. If you need to check the wind sock, I think it's better to overfly at 500 above the highest TPA (check the A/FD to see if there is a higher heavy/jet pattern), then proceed clear of the pattern before descending to TPA for a normal pattern entry.

    As for being unable to see the sock, there are many other clues as to wind direction, including preflight briefing, weather reports en route, nearby ASOS/AWOS, blowing smoke, wavetops in nearby water, tree top movements, etc. Those should be sufficient to determine which runway to use. And since you mention cows, IIRC, they generally turn butt to the wind. Trying to circle down below TPA to see the sock is not anything I would recommend.
     
  5. pilotod

    pilotod Pre-takeoff checklist

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    What's an overhead entry to downwind? Is it just entering the downwind from midfield?

    Does anyone know of some drawings that shows the various entries coming from different directions? There's a lot to think about like a/c departing crosswind and knowing which traffic pattern is used and which runway is active. I'd just like some graphic that I can see and put in my head so I'll at least minimize any issue when visiting a new place.

     
  6. jnmeade

    jnmeade Line Up and Wait

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    I probably already have some idea of expected surface winds from the pre-flight. Check it with surrounding ASOS/AWOS/ATIS. Or call Flight Service in the air. If NORDO, check for dust, smoke, cloud movement, vegetation blowing, etc. Listen and perhaps ask on CTAF. You can sometimes (not always) infer surface winds from winds aloft if you can get them. Figure 45° CCW from the wind at 3K AGL at least as a starting point (adjust as indications warrant). As you lower, you can use an avionics device or your eyeballs and line up on something and see what the wind does to you. Remember that wind usually goes CW with altitude, so adjust.
    I'm no great fan of these mid field flyovers. I am one of the evil ones who tends to fly a straight in, base, or whatever works. Before I'd do a flyover, I'd try to figure out way out there the likely pattern entry and simply put a little angle on the approach so I'd arrive o/a pattern altitude at about the right place to enter using standard turns.
    But, whatever. Everyone is good for something, even if it is only to serve as a bad example, so have at it.
     
  7. jaybee

    jaybee Line Up and Wait

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  8. John221us

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    Traffic patterns are well documented for most airports and you should have that information available. If there is no documentation, you can assume a left pattern. An overhead entry is not really standard, therefore I only do it, if there is no traffic. It can be anywhere between upwind and midfield and you simply turn downwind from overhead and drop altitude to TPA. It is important to be familiar with all information available about the destination airport, including runways, traffic patterns, frequencies and current NOTAMs.
     
  9. Sac Arrow

    Sac Arrow Touchdown! Greaser!

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    That sounds counter intuitive. Wouldn't they end up smelling their own farts?
     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2012
  10. pilotod

    pilotod Pre-takeoff checklist

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    That answers it perfectly. Although what happened that day is we went randomly from airport to airport so NOTAMS were not noted in advance for at least me. I thought the smoke pattern nearby was a pretty good indicator at this lonely air field but I had to fly around it 2 times to see the socks and confirm with the CFI what the wind was doing. and ss we were entering one field he asked why I was veering away from the runway and said he would just fly over it but the details of his comment were not disclosed.


     
  11. poadeleted20

    poadeleted20 Deleted

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    No. It is an entry via the upwind leg with a turn to the downwind. From the Pilot/Controller Glossary:
     
  12. poadeleted20

    poadeleted20 Deleted

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    That is not correct. See my post above.
     
  13. Let'sgoflying!

    Let'sgoflying! Touchdown! Greaser!

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  14. John221us

    John221us En-Route

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    I stand corrected.
     
  15. Jay Honeck

    Jay Honeck Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I've often wished more airports had wind T's. The best ones I've seen are made out of old airplane fuselages, and painted international orange. Mount 'em on a stick, keep the stick greased, and you ALWAYS know where the wind is from.

    Wind socks can be hard to see, and are not always where you expect them to be.
     
  16. Captain

    Captain Final Approach

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    Ron, common. That is clearly for military aircraft in formation (mostly) or alone. GA and civilian commercial operators don't do 'formation' or 'break out maneuvers' or join final at 1/4 mile.

    That not withstanding...

    I fly a 1,500' AGL traffic pattern as does every other turbine operator. Mostly I shoot visual approaches to towered and non-towered airports and if that's the case then I align for a straight in (outside 5 miles) or get in a downwind. If neither are convenient then I over-fly the field at 1,500 AGL and enter left traffic (unless right depicted on 10-9 or segmented circle) and land. My pattern is way wide of any GA traffic and it's never caused a conflict coming in.


    My point is, an 'Overhead Maneuver' is not what GA planes do. Flying over the field at 1,500 AGL, looking at the sock and joining the pattern at 1,000 AGL is not an 'Overhead Maneuver'. We're just flying by looking at the sock and landing. We're not doing two 180 degree break turns to land in formation or broken from formation to land.
     
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2012
  17. brcase

    brcase Cleared for Takeoff

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  18. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    AIM warns that some wind T's and tetrahedrons are manually pointed... I've never seen one that was, but I figure it's the FAA's way of saying some of them have completely rusted bearings... haha.
     
  19. poadeleted20

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    Actually, there is a good bit of civilian formation flying in light aircraft, and when in formation, we do use the overhead pattern to break up the formation.

    ...as long as nobody is trying to fly around over the field at 1500 AGL looking at the windsock.
    Actually, it really is what some of us do, although at civilian fields, we do the entry at TPA, not TPA+500, just to avoid the conflicts you envision.
     
  20. dmccormack

    dmccormack Touchdown! Greaser!

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    GEEZER RANT FOLLOWS:

    What happened to Basic Airmanship????!?!?!?!

    OUT
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    Anyway, listen to the nearest ASOS, listen to the traffic at the airport you're flying to...

    Enter the pattern normally based on your best guess, look for indications, sense ground movement.

    If you can't figure out the wind on final continue and do a low pass if it's a tailwind and transition to opposite side downwind.
     
  21. Garthur

    Garthur Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Did anyone mention licking your finger and sticking it out the side wind.

    I live here in cattle country, Cows do put their butts into the wind, but only on cold days. No, I don't know what a cold day is to a cow. I would never use this method from a plane.

    When I get within 20KM from an uncontrolled airport I monitor the local CTAF to hear the runway being used and then I still check the wind sock from the pattern. However, I have not seen or heard another plane airborne all winter (while I was airborne).

    In the mountains, most airports have wind socks at both ends of the runway, Make sure you check both. I've seen 2 different wind directions at the same airport.
     
  22. Captain

    Captain Final Approach

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    That's all cool Cap'n Ron, I was just sort of under the impression the OP was looking for a way to see the sock. I've always been under the impression that an overflight of the aerodrome for a 'looksee' should be at 1,500' to keep you above any established traffic.

    It's a bit of a coincidence that 1,500' is the same altitude planes burning kerosine fly the pattern...weird. I suppose most of those guys A.) have a radio so there's AT LEAST a 50% chance of the radio de-conflicting the jet and the 'looksee' guy, and B.) jets usually come in on the visual approach. Typically I'm on a straight in. (Obviously if I need a pattern I use it)

    *all alts AGL.
     
  23. FlySince9

    FlySince9 Cleared for Takeoff

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    I don't think I have ever relied on a sock or tee for wind info while approaching an airport. I like to plan my approach to the airport based on winds and have that info long before getting there.
     
  24. poadeleted20

    poadeleted20 Deleted

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    I think 500 above the highest published TPA is a more workable and safer standard for overflights to check the runways/windsock.
     
  25. poadeleted20

    poadeleted20 Deleted

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    The actual wind data are not always available "long before getting there," and even when they are, things can change. I'd much rather use the visual cues at that airport when I get there than rely on preflight briefing material.
     
  26. FlySince9

    FlySince9 Cleared for Takeoff

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    I was referring to other clues and info available while enroute and in the local area, as opposed to overflying to read the tee and sock.
     
  27. N801BH

    N801BH Touchdown! Greaser!

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    +1... That's my style too..:yesnod::yesnod:
     
  28. rottydaddy

    rottydaddy En-Route

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    Yes... smoke, flags, trees, grass, water are all good indicators of surface wind. As you approach the pattern at a non-towered field, it's smart to take note of these things.
    But you don't really know until you get there, so when in doubt, I fly over the pattern to try to see the sock (hard to read sometimes from that height) or tetrahedron (better, if it's in good working order).

    One thing I do NOT do is blindly accept automated wind info, the runway being used by other traffic, reports by other pilots on the ground, or even Unicom reports. I'll consider such info but not trust it 100%. All of the above may be perfectly accurate, but not necessarily. ASOS and AWOS gear is sometimes installed where it gets false wind readings; FBO anemometers can be wrong (or misinterpreted); socks and tetrahedrons can be stuck and not showing actual wind direction... and way too many pilots find themselves taking off or landing downwind due to "temporary dislexia" or get-there-itis. It's been my experience that most of the pilots who "play Tower" on the CTAF should probably keep their mouths shut.

    Still, again, you really don't know exactly what's going on until you're landing... a crosswind could become a tailwind; terrain, trees and buildings may create variable winds along the runway length; or a thermal might form or drift over the runway, causing significant changes.
     
  29. Captain

    Captain Final Approach

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    Published TPA is in the A/FD right? Aren't those usually 1,000 AGL? Does it break it down further to prop and jet? I sorta remember seeing a TPA in the A/FD but must admit its been a LONG time since I've held one.

    Bottom line, I've always had it in my head that a standard TPA is 1,000 for piston GA, 1,500 for turbine, and 1,500 for piston overhead crossings to later join or depart. Would you agree with that? If not, what do you teach?
     
  30. FlySince9

    FlySince9 Cleared for Takeoff

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    And once on a downwind, based on all those clues I collected inbound, if I spot the sock or tee, all the better. But I don't make a pass just to look for them.
     
  31. Captain

    Captain Final Approach

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    Sometimes I do. ASOS is down, Unicom won't answer and no one is in the pattern. Sounds like a lot but I'd say I over-fly the field once every 6 months or so to find a sock. I could go motoring around looking for smoke or lakes or cows butts (just learned that one), but for me...if I'm already that far down the throat of not knowing I'll just fly over and look at the stupid sock.

    BTW, I always launch with weather. But that's a forecast and if the above conditions are met then it's a certainty that the forecast I launched with isn't for THIS airport...it's for the bigger airport a few miles away and I'll take the overflight over guessing current local winds from an old TAF for an airport 15 miles away.
     
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2012
  32. dmccormack

    dmccormack Touchdown! Greaser!

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    If the wind is so strong that livestock is pointed downwind, you'll have other clues.
     
  33. FlySince9

    FlySince9 Cleared for Takeoff

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    Like the barn-roof missing?
     
  34. jesse

    jesse Administrator Management Council Member

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    Sometimes it's in the AF/D - if so obey it. When it is in the AF/D it may be 1000 AGL it might be something else. Turbines may be 1500AGL they might be something else. One should probably bother to look in the AF/D even if you are flying a Piaggio, as it might not be 1500 for turbines.

    I cannot see why a Piaggio captain flying into all kinds of different airports wouldn't refer to an AF/D or AF/D like data at some point. What is published can change and one needs to check those published sources. I don't hold an AF/D that often anymore either (because my iPad has all the same data).

    I teach my students to first check the AF/D. Do whatever is published in the AF/D. If it is not published in the AF/D then follow the AIM which states to use 1,000 AGL unless published otherwise.
     
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2012
  35. Captain

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    I don't have access to an A/FD. Haven't had access at any of the companies I've flown for or jump seated on. I don't think any 121 companies and very few 135 companies provides A/FD's to it's pilots.

    I do use fltplan.com and I'm pretty sure the TPA info would be listed there under Airport Info, but I seldom look at that. I don't know anybody that does.
     
  36. jesse

    jesse Administrator Management Council Member

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    That seems very odd to me...that's all I really can say. There is a lot in the AF/D that would be appropriate to the flight.

    In the Part 91 world we could get nailed under 91.103 for not being aware of what is in the AF/D.
     
  37. Captain

    Captain Final Approach

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    What can I say? Different type of flying.

    BTW, how many A/FDs would I need to cover all of North America and the Caribbean?
     
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2012
  38. SkyHog

    SkyHog Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I cross midfield at TPA, and then, depending on the windsock, I either turn directly onto downwind, or turn directly onto upwind.

    Thank you Canada, for having the most logical and safe pattern entry possible.
     
  39. poadeleted20

    poadeleted20 Deleted

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    That I'll buy.
     
  40. poadeleted20

    poadeleted20 Deleted

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    Not always. However, when it isn't, the FAA suggests 1000 for light planes and 1500 for heavy/jet traffic. See AIM 4-3-3 and the other guidance mentioned above.

    Usually there isn't a TPA listed, in which case the FAA recommendation applies.

    Many airports do.

    I haven't held one in a while, either, but the airport entries in ForeFlight include the A/FD entry with those data.

    That is what the AIM and other FAA guidance suggest when no TPA is specified.

    I'm not sure were that might be written.

    As stated above, I teach light plane folks 1000 TPA unless otherwise published, and 500 above the highest TPA for overflight.