Traffic patterns should be tight. I was reminded this afternoon when a Mooney flew over the neighborhood, which is a few miles from the airport. That’s one of the reasons I moved here and it’s great for seeing good and not-so-good airmanship. The bad news was this pilot was way beyond the bounds of a normal pattern for this size aircraft. However, he was being quiet and with reduced power the Mooney was making much less racket than a neighbor’s lawnmower a block away.
But it got me to thinking about how often we critique ourselves on how crisply a particular maneuver was performed. The mantra in the old aircraft I fly is to stay within gliding distance of the field in case the engine quit. It never has and probably won’t but it still seems like good advice. It also lowers the sound footprint considerably because a lot of power is not needed to drag the machine in the last few miles in from the impromptu cross-country.
Wide tracking also creates a collision hazard when someone flying a tight pattern is overtaken by a faster aircraft on base or final – that usually results in a lose-lose proposition.
This is also the weekend to give thanks, as our forefathers did some centuries ago for a bountiful harvest in the new colonies. We should give thanks for having the freedom to fly in this country, unlike almost any other place. You’ve heard before that GA is threatened in many areas which I won’t elaborate here, but merely say that despite our challenges the U.S. has more GA flight activity then the rest of the world combined. Give thanks for that freedom and resolve to do what it takes to protect it.
Take a non-pilot flying to introduce them to our world – maybe to become a pilot or just to understand. Think about what you can do to help your airport and educate the community on what it does – truly it is a field of dreams. Finally – always – resolve to go about the business of flying with safety at top of mind. It’s not that hard and won’t inconvenience you nearly as much as a mishap. It keeps our insurance rates down, improves our images and helps airports.
Go fly this weekend and remember to keep the pattern tight.