Crossed wind entries?

May 30, 2008 by Bruce Landsberg

Since we’ve had quite a discussion on comm procedures at non-towered airports let me once again, step between the dog and the fire hydrant. What’s your view on entering on the traffic pattern on crosswind leg at pattern altitude, either mid field or at the departure end ( opposite of where the T.O. roll started)?

There’s a lot of history behind this question which we can engage later and there are certainly pros and cons. My understanding is that in Canada, it is mandatory to enter on crosswind. In the U.S. the AIM does not address how one is supposed to get to the proper side of the pattern if approaching from the opposite side of downwind but assume it is to cross above pattern altitude and descend on the far side to enter into the 45.

I’ve seen it work very well both ways depending on conditions and would like a sense of the audience based on your experiences.

Notam: With AOPA Fly In coming next week and International AOPA conference the following week and out of the country, I will likely be off frequency until late June.

Bruce Landsberg
Senior Safety Advisor, Air Safety Institute

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  • Phil Cohen

    I failed my initial CFI ride about 10 years ago for entering the pattern at an uncontrolled airport on the crosswind. The inspector said that I should be teaching students to overfkly the field 500 feet above pattern altitude, then when well clear on the other side, descend and maneuver onto the 45. This is basically a complicated descending cloverleaf-like flight path to join the 45. It wastes a lot of time and I don’t believe that it is any safer as far as collision-avoidance is concerned.

  • Mark Hutchins

    I would be interested to know what current, CFI’s who fly dailly, use as a routine as their most preferred procedure, when approaching a non-towered airport from the upwind side. Do you overfly and enter on a 45, or do you fly some form of crosswind.

    Poster Tuuri, states that the 45 entry recommended in the AIM is illegal. Any comments on his statement?

  • Jon Griffin

    I generally would enter the pattern at 45 for on the down wind side of the runway, at the depature end; after broadcasting my intentions at the attention of the airport traffic.

    Crossing midfield would be executed, depending upon the direction of arrival, above pattern attitude for a left down wind turn into the pattern.

  • M.K. Chatterji

    I learnt to fly at a flight school headed up by a WWII Hawker Hurricane CFI. Our trainers were NORDO at the un-towered field. I still like to do things the way he taught me. Join on the upwind (offset from the runway, so you can see what’s going on) or cross wind at pattern altitude. At crosswind, departing aircraft can see you as they climb, even if they are high wing, and you can see them, even if you are low wing.

    When approaching the field, before you join the upwind or cross wind, you had to come in 500 feet higher than the pattern.

    I’ve rarely seen this in the US, what with towers and/or radios just about everywhere! But I still think it was sound procedure, though I doubt if current-day pilots would want to waste the time or avgas!


    P.S. Pilot Tuutri says this is not legal” (item #9 above.) Hmm.


  • John Lindholm

    As long as we’re in the pattern…… do we have to land on the runway..?

    If you think so, please quote me the FAR

  • Dennis Cmunt

    I would highly suggest everyone viewing the video, “Operations at non-towered airports”, published by the AOPA Air Safety Foundation.

    If everyone does his own thing, where are pilots supposed to be lookng in the pattern? I know the answer is everywhere, but the AIM specifically recommends the 45 degree to the downwind entry procedure.

    Whatever happened to standardization?

  • Don Kronen, ATP/CFII

    The question about how to enter the traffic pattern from the non-downwind leg side of the airport pattern had been around for years with no major difficulties. Then the AOPA ASF introduced the booklet for operating at uncontrolled airports. That is what started the mess. I phoned the editor years ago and had an interesting discussion that didn’t go anywhere. His comment eventually was “it’s an uncontrolled airport, you can do whatever you want to do”. I will never forget that conversation to have the drawing eliminated depicting a track over the airport at pattern altitude and a turn into the downwind leg, cutting off everyone on downwind and those properly entering the pattern.

    I think that the same guy that came up with that unsafe and illegal entry is the same guy that came up with the illegal radio call “is there anyone in the traffic pattern” .

    Here it is many years later with the same ridiculous discussion.
    Here is the answer, it is quite simple.
    Read the AIM. It is the way things must be done. That is why it was written.
    Read paragraph 4-3-3 and pay particular attention to Figure 4-3-3.
    The proper entry is clearly explained and depicted.

    If you can find one official FAA document saying anything other than AIM 4-3-3, please let me know.

    They guy on the phone gave up the argument and said “it’s an uncontrolled airport, you can do whatever you want to do”. I then asked him if the Donnie Approach was ok to do. He asked what that was. I said it’s where I go over the airport at 3000 feet, do a tight spiral down in landing configuration of course and whatever runway I am pointing down when I pull out is the one that I will land on. That’s where he gave up and hung up.
    My position is this: if we have a midair and I did it correctly and you didn’t, my wife will own your house.
    So, have at it, follow the rules, the FAR’s and the AIM, or make them up as you go along, it’s your choice.
    Don Kronen

  • Bob Kisin

    As a Canadian pilot, I have a lot of experience joining the downwind after crossing the active runway at midfield. In my experience (and I have flown in the US using FAA procedures), this is one of the safest entries I can imagine. From this vantage point, you can see the entire pattern and get a good look at the windsock from directly overhead. Everyone in the pattern can see you – no one is (nor should they be) climbing or descending at this point.

    In Canada, the entry is made midfield, and NEVER on the crosswind leg of the pattern. What a great way to end up with someone clipping you from below as they begin a circuit after take-off. We have other entries, including extended downwind and on base. Joining at 45 degrees to the downwind is not on the list, probably because of the very obvious blind spot most planes have in this position. The vast majority of Canadian airports are not controlled, and we have surprisingly few mid-airs in the pattern.

  • David Tuuri

    Bob Kisin Says:

    June 9th, 2008 at 8:21 pm
    As a Canadian pilot,

    The vast majority of Canadian airports are not controlled, and we have surprisingly few mid-airs in the pattern.

    So, Bob, what’s surprising about that? We have 10 times as many airplanes as Canada. It wouldn’t matter how you enter the pattern up there, odds-wise.

  • John Lindholm

    Just to stir this up a bit more…. are most of you aware that a right turn-out after departure is not prohibited by FARs, although not published in the AIM as a recommended departure? Another reason to cross near mid-field if approaching from the non-pattern side of the airport rather than circling off the end of the departure zone.

  • David Tuuri

    Naw. That’s another reason for departing aircraft to take it straight out like good little boys and girls and their older brothers and sisters used to always do.

  • John Lindholm

    A straight out departure usually only makes sense if that’s the direction you are intending to fly. If your intended course is in the 270 degree area not covered by the AIM recommended departure zone, what’s a pilot to do? Safety and logic would suggest some departure options contrary to what has been discussed in this forum.

  • David Tuuri

    The subject is arrivals, and everybody agrees turns are to the left (standard, of course) under 91.126 while appraoching an airport. It would be a DUMB thing to depart in a right turn against that traffic until you’re above the pattern. In my opinion.

  • John Lindholm

    Wait a minute…. many here keep talking about flying around the airport above TPA…. so how high must I climb to reach this magic place where I can turn any direction I please? I don’t want to be doing any dumb things, much less violate any FARs….. and if the wx is 1500 or 2000′ overcast, what then?

  • Bill Fusselman

    While we’re getting off the subject of the approach to a landing and have ventured into departures from uncontrolled airports, I would like to give you an instance of where a right turn out makes sense. Under normal circumstances, either a 45-degree left turn or a straight out on departure would suffice. Both are “recommended” departure paths. But, there are some instances where a right turn out makes more sense. I flew this one, so I think I have some experience with needing to make a right turn after departure. Take a look at OZARK, Alabama (Blackwell field – 79J), located 13 miles NE of Dothan, Alabama( see New Orleans Sectional). Departing on runway 30 and making a left 45-degree departure will put you smack into R-2103A&B. A straight out departure will let you miss it if you don’t drift to the left too far, but you will be close. If your airplane’s climb performance is very good, and assuming you need to go South, you might be lucky enough to climb quickly to above pattern altitude, turn South and proceed on your way from the left 45 departure but you had better attain at least 2900 feet MSL to avoid busting into the Cairns AAF/Fort Rucker military base’s Class D airspace. The prudent departure from this airport would be a right turn out, climbing to at least 2900 Feet MSL before proceeding South. Most of the time, the 45 or the straight out will work but one had better consult the chart before deciding to follow a “rote” procedure. With the military gobbling up more and more airspace, there have to be exceptions to the “recommended” procedures. In fact, the missed approach procedure on the GPs Runway 30 approach plate for 71J calls for a straight climb to 1400 MSL then a RIGHT climbing turn.

  • Bill Fusselman

    The one thing I neglected to mention on the above described departure is that a low altitude right turn from Ozark (71J) is not a good idea either due to proximity of towers all over the place off the departure end of Runway 30 ( one left and South of the field at 365 feet MSL, one straight out at 619 feet MSL and one at 765 feet MSL to the northeast). This field is a good example of the multiple hazards we face. Maybe purchasing the U.S. Terminal Procedures and reviewing the missed approach in addition to the reviewing the sectional chart is a prudent thing to do where terrain and and towers appear to be hazards as well as arriving and departing aircraft. If one follows the missed approach procedure in a hazardous area, one can be assured of clearance from obstacles and special use airspace that a left 45-degree departure or a straight out might not provide. Regarding other aircraft, see and avoid as recommended. Now, I’ll let you all get back to the subject of traffic pattern entries as Bruce intended. I’m leaving on vacation in the morning.

  • Scott Randolph

    I cross midfield at pattern altitude. Crossing at the departure end puts me in potential conflict with high performance departing aircraft (My RV6 can nearly get to pattern altitude by the end of the runway — not quite, but close enough to be uncomfortable). It also puts me in the middle of the IFR missed approach procedure which is often practiced at my home field. And finally, it has me merging with folks coming in on the 45 when we’re BOTH wing up turning onto down wind.

    By crossing mid field I avoid these issues and can see the wind sock, I can scan for traffic already on downwind at my same altitude and adjust my entry as spacing requires. It is also quicker so saves time and gas especially when I’m the only aircraft in the pattern (often the case when coming home at the end of the day).

  • David Tuuri

    John Lindholm Says:

    June 9th, 2008 at 11:18 pm
    Wait a minute…. many here keep talking about flying around the airport above TPA…. so how high must I climb to reach this magic place where I can turn any direction I please?
    You climb to pattern altitude, then turn. Or make a slight change in heading, level your wings and continue to pattern altitude (if you have an operational need).

    The distance it takes to reach TPA is what really counts for safety. High climb rate aircraft ought to climb even higher before turning or fly farther away from the airport. I used to throttle back, so I could see the horizon over the nose and keep my speed under 180 KIAS until above 1,000 AGL. Then tip-toe upward and onward out of the area, on course, until well clear.

  • Mark Hutchins

    When departing I usually climb runway heading to 1000 to 2000 feet above pattern, and then just turn direct on course. The puts me way above pattern, and when I turn on course, I am usually then about 5 miles from the airfield. There is no need to be in a big rush to turn on course, if it is going to put you in conflict with arrival traffic.

    We only have one runway, so a straight out, or left or right turn is perfectly fine once you have passed pattern altitude, and the end of the runway, although I usually go at least a mile and usually 3 miles beyond runway before departing on a left or right 45.

    If there is a jet behind me departing, I will make the 45 turn as soon as I get to pattern altitude, and 1/2 mile from the end of runway, and they will have heard me announce intentions before they have started their takeoff roll.

  • Rudy Terry

    I am with the “mid-field” crossing slight higher than the pattern crew if you really feel a need to enter on the “cross wind” leg. However it should be considered that CFI’s have been teaching and stressing the 45 entry as the safest and the “expected” approach to the pattern for some years now.

    The concept of “expected” is important in that newer pilots could be surprised and distracted by the shorcuts taken by others who are in a hurry to enter the pattern. And as for these shortcuts: crosswind, base and straight in, none produce more accute anxiety to the curteous 45 degree entrant than the cross wind shortcut. This situation quickly conjures up the image of aircraft coming at you nearly head on – expecially since the 45 entrant is usually crabbing somewhat to counter the wind effect.

  • Josh

    As a CFII, I see no problem with a midfield crosswind entry. Flying crosswind over the departure end of the runway is unsafe due to the risk of a collision with a departing aircraft that can actually make pattern altitude by the end of the runway (even a 172 can make pattern altitude off a 4000 foot runway if it’s light and flying into a headwind) As for the overfly and join at 45 degree idea, be careful of a couple of things – you will most likely not be able to see aircraft below you in the traffic pattern (ever try to locate traffic ATC calls 1000′ below you!) Also, there may be traffic that flies a larger pattern than the average trainer (think 1 mile pattern for a medium twin, and sometimes 2 miles for a jet) This should influence how far you overfly the airport before your 45 degree entry. Be careful and eyes outside!

  • Ed Rumpeltin

    When I am 5 to 10 miles out I get on the unicom and announce where I am and what my intentions are and ask for any advisories and listen to see if anyone is in the pattern. Then I can get a good mental picture of what is going on at the field. Personally I always stay away from the departure end of the runway, being a Marine I liken it to staying away from the business end of a rifle.

    I overfly the field at TPA + 500ft (of course announcing what I am doing) then do a tear drop to a 45 degree entry to downwind at midfield. I find that this method gives me a mental picture of what is going on at the field before I get there so I know what or who to look out for. Plus overflying the field lets me get a look at the windsock and keep an eye out for anyone who is in the pattern but not being a good neighbor and announcing his/her position.

  • Chris Wilson

    Having spend most of my time learning and flying from uncontrolled airports I have to say that I prefer the midfield entry. I was taught this initially by my CFI, who went to great lengths to point out that this was much debated issue. As a rule I stick with that entry when on the opposite side, however I would hasten to add that it “depends on the situation”. At times the traffic, winds, visibility, and other such factors make a crosswind entry more applicable to that particular flying situation.

    The one thing that does not depend on the situation is COMMUNICATE…COMMUNICATE…COMMUNICATE….and DON’T ASSUME NOTHING.

    I announce where I am, what altitude I’m at, what I’m flying, what direction I’m going, what I had for lunch, what I’m wearing….well, you get the idea….

  • robert hasiak

    There are many ways to enter the pattern, most are unsafe, and I have seen them all. However, there needs only be two entries into a pattern. Down wind mid-field or up wind mid-field. That takes care of alot of mess in the traffic pattern. Down wind entry isnt complicated, pilots usually enter the pattern quite easily from the down wind side of the runway. Its getting set up for the down wind while approaching from the opposite side of the runway that gets hairy. Pilots typically fly over the field then engage in a decending turn, usually at a fairly steep bank angle. I cant think of anything more dangerous than a decending turn into a traffic pattern. Besides, why do we have traffic patterns? The answer is simple, conformity. If you fly a standard pattern, it is very predictable and orderly. Also, it is easier to get set up for that perfect landing when flying a traffic pattern. Things get complicated when pilots try some of that fighter jock stuff, turn and burn/yank and bank stuff after crossing the runway in order to stay close to the airport, and not waist gas. It would be easier to just enter on the up wind at pattern altitude. Think about it; your at traffic pattern altitude and do not need to turn and burn while descending to get set up at pattern altitude on a 45 degree angle. Your in an excellent position to view the wind sock, the runway, the airport traffic, get configured and set up for landing, and properly space yourself if needed. You stay close to the runway in case of that magical engine failure, and your not descending into the traffic pattern near the traffic side of the pattern. As far as i can tell, there are nothing but benefits to this approach. Ive seen all sorts of entries, straight in, dog-leg, upwind, downwind, base, and once…..a cross wind as I was starting my climbing turn to cross wind…….in a cessna. Has the pilot not made the call, I would never have seen him, and he would have never seen me as he was in a low wing ercoupe. So on that note, dont forget to make your radio calls, because they do save lives! Traffic patterns are one of the areas where mid air collisions are most probable. Add in crazy pattern entrys descending turns, nordo aircraft, and a nice sunny day…..and you have disaster in the making. Anyway, those are my two cents, and those to entries are what I teach to my students.

  • Ed Rumpeltin

    My problem with crossing the field at TPA is I always assume that someone is going to be doing the wrong thing and the wrong time in the wrong place. I.E. I assume there will be someone in the opposite pattern or someone in the pattern who is not communicating. My home airport (4N1) is Left pattern on 24 and right on 6. So when I am crossing the field 500ft above at midfield I am above anyone who might be right downind for 6 or left downwind for 24, and I am away from anyone who might have just done a go around on short final and is climbing up to my altitude. And I am set up for either runway if the wind shifts (which happens all the time at 4N1).

    Plus what if as you are crossing at TPA you figure out that the wind just shifted and now the other runway is the one you want to use. Do you turn left and enter what now becomes an upwind for the other runway? Then you end up crosswind at the departure end at TPA and you are in the very problem you tried to avoid by entering midfield. Do you just do a u-turn and stay at TPA and cross back over the airport? Do you climb to 500 above TPA then u-turn?

    In my humble opinion I just think there are more “gotchyas” crossing at TPA then 500 above. But then again i also thought the Yankees would win the world series last year.

  • R J Busson

    I operate at a very small uncontrolled field and teach my students to overfly the departure end of the runway at 500 to one thousand feet above TPA if there are several aircraft in the pattern. One is to observe the wind sock and the other reason is to stay above other traffic. I have found it difficult for students to see the windsock at that altitude so they assume the other aircraft are landing into the wind. If there is no traffic observed or reported I suggest they enter crosswind at pattern altitude to better observe the wind sock and fly the upwind leg or downwind leg if the wind calls for the other runway. I feel other traffic is more easily spotted at TPA than above it. Under no circumstances do I recommend descending into the traffic pattern from the crosswind leg.

  • Kevin Keith

    As a 3000 hour CFII for the legalist that think titles mean something and all the rest of you good people who know more than me, I shall put in my two cents worth. Here is what I teach. Look, Listen, Talk it works for a cross wind entry, straight in or any other.

    Look: for your fellow aviators in the pattern who may not have a radio(gotta love those little yellow cubs) or the fledglings maybe not being as accurate as should be on the radio. We all had to learn and were not as perfect as we think we are now:-)

    Listen: where is everybody that is talking.

    Talk: Put others first, this is the point I stress. If there seems the slightest bit of a conflict let your brother or sister have the right of way. The regs are for lawyers the safe enjoyment of flight is for us true aviators.

    Example: Beloved airfeild Cirrus 123CD 4 west crosswind for 18. then you hear Beloved airfeild Cessna 17230 on a 45 downwind 18. What do you do? I would say good morning 17230, 123Cd will enter an upwind 18 number 2 behind you, save me some pancakes. This assuming a pancake fly in breakfast. I’ve been reading to much Rod Machado I guess.

    Bottom line: Put others first. Fall in behind them and enjoy the moment it’s all we really live in. You may be watching someones first solo as you give way don’t forget. Be kind and try and remember to say there but for the grace of God go I if someone is maybe not as perfect as you in the pattern.

  • Mark Hutchins

    Bravo for Kevin Keith! Excellent attitude and a great example of conflict resolution for not only students, but all pilots.

  • Joe S

    Anyone expecting traffic to enter the pattern in only one direction is not living in the real world. Pilots must exercise vigulence, good judgement, and constantly look out for other traffic.

    The biggest conflicts I have experienced occurred on those VFR legal days, when I was on an instrument flight plan. I am going to paint a fairly common scenerio.

    The weather is 1500 overcast with 12 miles of visibility and the wind is out of 060. VFR pilots are doing pattern work and IFR pilots are flying in from remote airports. The final approach fix is at 2000 and 4 miles out. For VFR pilots, the FAF is the point the controllor tells you: “Radar service terminated; Frequency change approved; Cancel IFR on this frequency or on the ground.” (Note: He does not tell you to squawk VFR because you still on an IFR flight plan and in IMC.) If your lucky, you get “Use extreme caution, multiple targets in vicinity of airport.” You pop out of the clouds at 1500 feet and 2 miles from the field as you continue descending towards your minimum descent altitude or decision height. You search for the field and other traffic. You make a decision of what is safest.

    Let’s assume two VFR aircraft on downwind, and I am the IFR pilot. Here are some scenerios:

    1) The airport has an ILS 6 approach. I announce for other traffic that I am on the ILS 6 and I also annouce that I am on a 4 mile final for VFR pilots that don’t know what the ILS 6 means. (Yes, every once in a while you get the clown that communicates back to enter on the 45′, and while I’d love to if I weren’t in the clouds I continue on, keep the needles lined up, and announce the 3 mile final.) When I break out at 1500 feet and 2 miles, spot the field, and the two aircraft on downwind, I probably elect to continue the apporach and land the plane. I possibly coordinate with the first aircraft to delay turn to base.

    2) The airport only has a VOR 24 approach. Normally, you would plan to circle to land runway 6 when you break out of the clouds. So, now when I pop out of the clouds at 1500 feet and two miles out, I am opposing potential traffic taking off. I most likely spot the field, spot the two aircraft on downwind, turn right and line up as #3 behind them.

    3) The airport only has a VOR-A approach which dumps you at a 30 degree angle to final (or 090 heading). Although the VFR traffic think the base of the clouds is 1500, it turns out to be 1200 when you break out at 1.2 miles from the field. What do you do? It depends, but maybe the safest thing if you spot the traffic is turn 120 and enter on the base leg! They’ll understand that better than saying you’re circling to land 6.

    Anyway, I am not arguing against standards such as entering on mid-field crosswind or a 45′ downwind when practical. You just can’t assume it to be so. Look. Talk. Listen.

  • Brian

    I was taught, and this seems very safe to me, is when coming into an untowered airport from the opposite direction of the pattern, one should overfly the field at midfield 500 feet above pattern alt, confirm the sock and direction of wind, look for traffic that has not announced or that is already entering either from crosswind or on the 45 (you can see them very well, then make a right decending 270 for a left pattern or a left 270 for a right pattern entry to enter on the 45 at pattern alt. This opposite turn gives you the ability to see any planes that are already on downwind, coming in on the 45 or in the crosswind that you missed on your initial midfield fly over. you are now midfield, entering on 45 at pattern altitude. Of course, you want to announce your intentions on CTAF. This seems safer than a midfield flyover with same direction as pattern turn that puts your back to the traffic that you might have missed. It has worked well at my home apt and other uncontrolled when I come in from the opposite direction than the pattern.

  • Ray

    When I was taught, I had two different instructors. The first instructor taught the conventional way of crossing the field above pattern altitude and entering the downwind at a 45 degree angle descending to pattern altitude.

    My second instructor taught entering the cross wind at the departure end of the airport at pattern altitude. His reasoning: you can look to the right to see aircraft entering the downwind (assumes typical left pattern), you can look straight out to see aircraft coming in on the 45, and you can look to the left and see aircraft already on the down wind. You can also look down the runway and see any aircraft that may be taking off.

    This works well and let’s face it, most non-towered fields do not have runways long enough for an aircraft to take off and be at pattern altitude by the time the aircraft gets to the departure end of the runway.

    So bottom line, I prefer to enter the pattern by a crosswind entry at the departure end of the runway. It is safe and it also cuts down on unnecessary maneuvering and time.

  • Bill

    I flight instruct at the busiest GA airport in the US with an average of close to 400,000 operations per year. After 9pm, the tower closes and the majority of us that are teaching instrument students fly at this time of the evening or later. This can place as many as 5-7 of us in the pattern at once with everything from low wing trainers to G-IV’s and anything in between. I also grew up, and still fly a J-3 from a 2500 foot private grass strip that is quite busy.

    I teach my students as I was taught which is exactly how it is depicted in the AIM figure 4-3-2, and 4-3-3. Enter the downwind leg on a 45 degree angle. The note that left hand turns are required unless depicted/spelled out in the AFD is correct but remember that is turns in the pattern, not entering the pattern. If you are outside of the pattern maneuvering to enter the 45 for downwind, your turn direction doesn’t matter as long as you comply with the FAR’s to avoid placing yourself in a situation where you are so close to another aircraft as to create a collision hazard.

    The key item that I think people are forgetting is that you need to manuever yourself well before reaching the traffic pattern so that you are in a position to make a 45 degree entry to downwind. As mentioned in previous comments, I can attest to the fact that there are a great majority of aircraft that can be at or near traffic pattern altitude by the end of the 8-10,000 foot runway and certainly by crosswind.

    Entering on a 45 degree angle to downwind is the safest method as you can clearly see the whole entire pattern in front of you. You can see the windsock (if you didn’t get AWOS/ASOS if it is not available), you can look to your left/right depending on the pattern and see aircraft already on the downwind leg, and you can see any traffic expected to be in front of you, and you can also look across the airport to see upwind traffic. This also places you in a position to turn right/left AWAY from the traffic pattern if necessary to avoid traffic. If you enter on crosswind and have to turn away to avoid traffic departing, you are turning the same direction as an aircraft departing straight out as depicted in the AIM putting you in a situation where he/she may be 300 feet below you and climbing into you on nearly the same heading. Entering the pattern on a 45 degree angle to crosswind also puts you nearly head on with departing traffic that is plenty capable of reaching TPA by then, as the AIM points out you should not commence your turn to crosswind until within 300 feet of TPA. If I am required to fly straight out or 45 degree departure from the point of the crosswind turn, I will be putting my right/left wing up to make the required pattern departure and will be unable to see you coming in at a 45 degree angle to the crosswind. This is a very unsafe condition.

    With respect to cutting down on time, entering on downwind is certainly shorter than entering on crosswind. Also think about workload points in the pattern. On crosswind the departing pilot is climbing/turning/managing slow speeds with high angles of attack and often unable to see out of the front of the aircraft. On downwind, the pilot is typically able to see in front of and all around him permitting a much safer place to enter. If a pilot departing and within 300 feet of TPA turns left crosswind at Vy and you enter crosswind on a 45 off his/her right wing, you can put the departing pilot in a situation where he must avoid you by turning back towards the airport at a low/slow situation which is very dangerous also unable to see you entering on the 45 with his/her wing up (considering low wing aircraft).

    Lastly, the windsock. If you planning to land on a runway and enter the pattern on the crosswind leg. Lets assume the wind is straight down the runway. Is the windsock pointing at you or away from you as you are on the crosswind right off the departure end of the runway? This may seem trivial, but I can’t tell you how many students become confused when looking at a windsock that is pointing directly at or away from them especially at night.

    This again is just my opinion, but appears concurrent with the published procedures that are in the AIM/FAR’s and have served me well at airports all across the country.

  • Jim Kelly

    Perhaps it is worth while to consider collision avoidance and the concept of see and be seen. The FAR requires all turns in a traffic pattern (uncontrolled airport) to be to the left unless otherwise indicated. That allows the pilot to make a straight in, upwind, downwing or a crosswind entry. At night I prefer an entry into the upwind leg so I stay near the airport. Making a 45 degree entry gives me the willies.

    I think the real question is “What do the other pilots in the pattern expect?” Thats “be seen.” I look where I expect traffic to be. Entering any way other than a 45 to the downwind isn’t where others expect you to be.

  • Barry camp

    I like the midfield crosswind at pattern alltitude best. It is possible that an aircraft
    with a very high climb rate with no radio, or a missed approach, or a go around
    could fly up under you. But I think the risk are greater at the departure end crosswind entry. I think the risk of a desending normal 45 degree entry is greater than either type of crosswind entry. I think the normal 45 entry should have right of way. I think any call for entry should be made at 2 miles. I think the radio call should be “Piper N# 2 miles 1000′(cardinal heading) Making a non
    standard crosswind entry at midfield to the down wind for runway 26 anyfield USA”. As the crosswind becomes more common the non standard could be dropped. I think the less manuvering, the straight line, the less time in the air, is
    safer, and less congestion.

  • Chuck Lindberg

    I guess I am coming from “what’s the rush?” on this one. Assume you are approaching a small, unfamiliar, non-towered airport having a single runway in a ‘typical’ Cessna, Piper or similar.
    You don’t hear anyone talking but don’t want to assume the absence of pilots from rural areas perhaps flying open cockpit and slow, who may not feel the need, right or wrong, to use the mic all that much.
    Agreeing with Barry about when to announce, would it not be a bit safer sometimes to cross midfield above the pattern, look and see the action in the pattern and on the ground, then circle down into pattern altitude approaching from the 45? .

  • Wade Zingler

    Well, it is too bad you beat me to this post. Now what am I supposed to write about?

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  • rp

    Perhaps it is worth while to consider collision avoidance and the concept of see and be seen. The FAR requires all turns in a traffic pattern (uncontrolled airport) to be to the left unless otherwise indicated. That allows the pilot to make a straight in, upwind, downwind or a crosswind entry. At night I prefer an entry into the upwind leg so I stay near the airport. Making a 45 degree entry gives me the willies.

    I think the real question is “What do the other pilots in the pattern expect?” Thats “be seen.” I look where I expect traffic to be. Entering any way other than a 45 to the downwind isn’t where others expect you to be.