collision avoidance quiz

How to fly a standard airport traffic pattern

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A left hand pattern is considered standard and should be used unless specified otherwise for an airport. It is important to fly standard traffic pattern procedures to ensure the safe and orderly flow of aircraft to and from an airport.

To enter a left-hand traffic pattern, establish the aircraft on a 45° ground track toward the midpoint of the downwind leg. Pattern altitude (1,000′ AGL) and pattern airspeed should be established approximately two miles out.

Complete the Before Landing Checklist, verifying that the landing gear is down and locked. Perform an initial GUMPSS check (Gas-fullest tank/on/both, Undercarriage-down and locked, Mixture-rich/as required, Props – high rpm/as required/defer for final check, Seatbelts-secure, Switches-on as required).

Turn the aircraft onto the downwind leg approximately 1/2 to 3/4 mile out from the active runway. Pattern altitude will be maintained unless traffic separation or air traffic control dictate something else. Opposite the point of intended landing, reduce power, set flaps to the first setting and establish initial approach airspeed.

Commence a turn to the base leg when at proper position and traffic permits. Set flaps to the second setting. Coordinate the pitch and power to maintain initial approach airspeed and the desired approach angle. Complete an intermediate GUMPSS check.

Visually clear the area before turning onto final, then commence your turn to final so as to rollout with the aircraft aligned with the extended centerline of the landing runway.

Set the flaps as necessary (normally full flaps by 300’ AGL and landing assured). Complete a final GUMPSS safety check and ensure the runway is clear. Coordinate pitch and power to maintain the desired final approach airspeed and approach angle for the appropriate landing procedure.

When it comes time to depart the pattern, first climb on the departure leg straight ahead. After reaching pattern altitude during the climb, you can then continue to fly straight ahead, or make a 45 degree turn in the direction of the pattern to depart the area, which would be left for standard traffic patterns. Continue climb and maintain ground track until well clear of the pattern traffic, at least 1.5 miles. 

Eric Radtke
1 reply
  1. Lynn A. Pease says:

    A left hand pattern isn’t “considered” standard, its set that way in the FAR’s. The pattern direction is law, the entry method is “reccomended” to include not only just the 45 but the cross midfield to join downwind method. Also the 45 entry should intercept downwind at the midpoint of the runway.

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