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Oshkosh365 is, as always, alive with discussion as members connect and ask questions about building and flying and just about anything
else having to do with aviation. This month, we look back at a thread
started by Adam Smith, EAA’s vice president of member services, that
sparked a lot of discussion about what seemed at first to be a pretty
simple question: When approaching an airport from the “dead” side (the
opposite side of the traffic pattern), what’s the correct way to join the
pattern? Here are some highlights from other members’ responses.
The Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) lists the (overhead) entry. Most pilots
only read this once during training, but this is the acceptable method of entry to
any pattern. I like the overhead as it allows the student/pilot to see the runway and
windsock. Once the landing area has been selected, then a right turn out to come
back in on a 45 degree to the left side of the runway would be correct.
Flying over the pattern and then descending to pattern altitude on the other side gives
a pilot a chance to observe any NORDO (no radio) traffic below them. What’s fun for
me is flight reviews with people who just cross at pattern altitude and “hang a left.”
I won’t do it, and I tell them I’ll talk them through the overhead method. Amazing
how fast they get to be believers.—BOB MEDER
I prefer the “cross at pattern altitude and hang a left” method, traffic permitting.
If you overhead the field above the pattern and then leave the pattern so you can
enter the downwind at a 45, you lose situational awareness; a lot can happen while
you have your back turned. What if someone else wants to do the same thing at the
same time? I know the AIM suggests otherwise, but this is the approach I feel most
comfortable with.—BENJAMIN BAGNALL
Flying away from the field and coming back in on the 45, you lose situational
awareness as well as wasting time.—ALICE CORNWELL
It’s a lot easier to spot traffic that is above the horizon than below it. I teach my
students to do the midfield cross to downwind coming from the non-active side of
the field, 45 to the downwind on the active side, get to pattern altitude at least a mile
or two out to have the best chance of picking up the traffic.—TONY JOHNSTONE
I announce my position and intent to overfly 5 or so miles from any airport. I overfly
at about 500 feet over the airport. This gives my student time to observe all runways,
windsocks, wind tees, and tetrahedrons and other traffic on the ground or in the air.
Makes for good planning.—RICHARD ROBBINS
We drive on the right side of the road. That preference isn’t better than the custom in
the U.K., Australia, or other parts of the world. But it is the accepted standard, and
it makes sense for everyone, while driving in the U.S., to follow that rule. The same
logic applies to flying traffic patterns. If everyone followed the procedures outlined
in the AIM, FAA training handbooks, advisory circulars, and the like, we’d have fewer
exciting moments near airports.—BRUCE WILLIAMS
The preferred method seems to contradict FAR 91. 126…” When approaching an airport
without an operating control tower in Class G airspace, all turns should be made to
the left, unless otherwise specified, in which case all turns should be made to the
If you’ve got something to add, you can find the link to this discussion at
www.SportAviation.org. Otherwise, log on to www.Oshkosh365.org to find
and join other discussions or start one of your own!