Traffic Pattern Legs

FAA updates Advisory Circular for non-towered airport operations

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Traffic Pattern

While traffic pattern flow is governed, entries are not, but pilots should still follow recommended entry procedures.

The FAA recently published an update to Advisory Circular (AC) 90-66 for non-towered airport operations. This AC calls attention to regulatory requirements, recommended operations, and communications procedures for operating at an airport without a control tower. It recommends traffic patterns, communications phraseology, and operational procedures. The AC has been updated to reflect current procedures and best practices at airports without an operating control tower.

The AC notes that when entering the traffic pattern at an airport without an operating control tower, inbound pilots are expected to observe other aircraft already in the pattern and to conform to the traffic pattern in use. If there are no other aircraft present, the pilot should check traffic indicators on the ground and wind indicators to determine which runway and traffic pattern direction to use. Traffic pattern entry and turn direction information is provided by using the airport remarks or Chart Supplement, or by referring to the AIM. Arriving aircraft should enter the airport’s traffic pattern at traffic pattern altitude and avoid straight-in approaches for landing to mitigate the risk of a midair collision.

All traffic, should, at a minimum, monitor the CTAF. For departures a minimum of 10 minutes prior to taxi and arrivals a minimum of 10 miles out from the airport, you should broadcast your intentions. Failure to follow recommended communication procedures has contributed to near midair collisions, and as such could be considered careless and reckless operation of an aircraft. On the airport’s CTAF, you should communicate and coordinate your takeoff intention with aircraft inbound and in the traffic pattern and announce the runway to be used, the direction of flight on departure, or whether you intend to remain in the traffic pattern. Pilots are reminded that the use of the phrase “ANY TRAFFIC IN THE AREA, PLEASE ADVISE” is not a recognized self-announce position and/or intention phrase and should not be used under any condition.

Pilots may report safety threats or regulatory violations online to the FAA Hotline at

View these helpful video tips from Sporty’s Learn to Fly Course for non-towered airport operations.

Eric Radtke
4 replies
  1. Louis DiGiovanni says:

    Small note, after the run up in many airports you should call ground after run up and notify that you are ready to continue taxi before leaving run up area to receive clearance from ground to move forward.. Then once at the hold short mark announce to tower your position and ready for take off.

  2. Richard says:

    “Any traffic in the area, please advise” has been REMOVED as something not to say from the Advisory Circular and has been moved down to the AIM (the least important of FAA documents). People are now working to remove that from the AIM as well. Those who oppose its use don’t seem to be IFR pilots flying jets on RNAV approaches. While pilots in the pattern maybe making radio calls, they might not make a call right after we switch from ATC frequencies to CTAF minutes from landing. When we switch to CTAF and say we are 10 miles to the North inbound on the RNAV (on what appears to be a quiet frequency), the 152 pilot who just turned downwind and made a radio call seconds before probably won’t say anything. The jet pilot has no idea that they are starting a 10 mile final at 200 knots with someone on downwind. Asking if there is traffic in the area hopefully gets the 152 pilot to respond with another position call. Those opposed to the use of the phrase either don’t understand this or they want more midair collisions. If there is other traffic in the pattern, we can then negotiate the landing order. Flying a pattern at 160 knots with smaller traffic at half the speed and no controller tower is not particular safe or ideal, and is typically avoided by jet traffic when ever possible.

  3. Paul Dixon says:

    My experience is there are those people that continue to fly the straight approach into a non towered airport even though there are others in the pattern that would dictate that’s what should be used. I personally experienced it this weekend flying into KWLW. Several pilots were flying a RH pattern into 16. During this time two pilots did straight approaches rather than getting into the pattern. It does require constant communication in order to avoid a potential problem. However, I believe some pilots just don’t want to take the additional time to fly a standard pattern. So it begs the question will the AD change anything?

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