Proper Pattern Entry Procedures for Non-Towered Airports

In case you are accustomed to flying in and out of a towered airport, you may be unfamiliar with proper pattern entry procedures and ground operations at non-towered airports. Luckily, the procedures are fairly simple and easy to remember.

However, Max Trescott has recently written a post where he pointed out that some pilots seem to have forgotten such procedures. As Max recalls from his previous weekend of flying:

At Jack Edwards, I came nose-to-nose with another aircraft while our airplane was making a proper entry on the 45 to join the downwind. We had crossed over the field 1000 feet above the traffic pattern altitude (TPA), then descended and turned to enter the 45 at pattern altitude. We announced our position every step of the way and heard another aircraft following. They crossed over the field at about 500 feet above the TPA, but then descended and turned directly onto the downwind. They turned immediately in front of us onto the downwind while apologizing over the radio for cutting us off.

Once on the ground, the other pilot admitted that he was accustomed to flying out of a towered airport. Hence, Max uses the incident to write a very detailed overview (including diagrams) of the proper procedures for pattern entry as outlined by the FAA plus he also mentions that he had written about the topic five years ago on his pilotsafetynews.com website. Both of his posts are well worth reading should you be planning a trip in and out of a non-towered airport in the near future.

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5 Responses to Proper Pattern Entry Procedures for Non-Towered Airports

  1. Brad November 18, 2009 at 15:33 #

    Why would you quote an article you found online without actually linking to it?

    • Matthew Stibbe November 18, 2009 at 15:44 #

      We normally do so this must have been an oversight or typo. 🙂 Matthew

  2. uh.. November 18, 2009 at 18:20 #

    Although, it's still not linked…

    • Matthew Stibbe November 18, 2009 at 19:10 #

      I will mention it to my colleague John who wrote the post. But the article does link to Max's earlier post and his blog is in my blogroll and he is mentioned in the article.

  3. Julien November 18, 2009 at 23:10 #

    I was really surprised to learn in Max's post that a 45-degree downwind entry from the inside of the circuit (pattern) is actually allowed in the US. What if another aircraft is going around from final or joins the circuit upwind at the same time?

    In Australia I was taught to enter the circuit on the crosswind leg above the numbers of the opposite threshold. 45-degree entries from the outside are allowed but not recommended since this assumes the pilot already knows which runway is in use without looking at the windsock.

    I have heard that circuit entry in the UK is different from the US and Australia but I can't remember in which way.

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