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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139 Responses to “Crossed wind entries?”

  1. Andy Says:

    I was taught this by my CFI. I’ve also entered the pattern on the upwind, base, and done numerous straight-in arrivals. The nice thing about the cross-wind and upwind entries are you get to look down and see the wind sock. That becomes your ATIS because you can survey where you’re going to land.

    I would never do this when the field is busy unless it was pattently clear it would not disrupt anyone else. However, people have chewed me out when I’ve done it and been the only plane in the air. These folks are generally younger, have gained most of their experience at towered fields, and tend to get sweaty palms when not talking to ATC. They also tend to believe that entering on the 45 is in the FAR’s.

    More important than where and how you enter the pattern is how much time and energy you spend arguing about it before you’re on the ground. The few times I’ve gotten slack over the air I’ve invited the complainent to my hanger for a safer discussion on the ground. After all, landing my aircraft is far more important than some stranger thinking I’m right or wrong. Funny, none have felt it important enough to show up.

  2. Andy Gilbert Says:

    I first encountered a crosswind leg pattern entry when three of my colleagues and I were sent to the U.K. to undergo “New Hire Training” by our flight school. We were flying a “Crosswind Rejoin”, after our first training flight, when we were nearly hit by a Piper Seneca, that had been cleared by tower for a “Right Base to Land” entry who then flew same profile as our “crosswind rejoin”. Needless to say ,this negative experience has left me very wary.

    Common sense would seem to indicate that almost the only place that you could guarantee an arriving or departing aircrafts altitude would be between the approach end of the runway and the IFR aiming markers. Go-around’s excepted. With the performance of todays corporate aircraft flying across the departure end of a runway 1000’AGL doesn’t seem particularly safe. During the summer in a Piper Warrior I can cross the departure end of Phoenix Goodyear’s 8500′ runway close to 500’AGL. In the Seneca we can get even closer to pattern altitude. So at a Non-Towered airport with a 6500′ long runway things could get a little interesting to say the least.

    The FAR’s do not regulate us to entering on the “45” but Chapter 4 section 3 point 3 of the AIM is very informative. This is a very condensed version of the advice given in Advisory Circular 90-66A Dt: 08/26/93. Whilst the AC doesn’t try to regulate how we enter the patern it does recommend that we overfly the airfield 500′ above pattern altitude, to determine the runway in use, then to maneuver clear of the pattern before descending and entring on a “45”. It also advises that priority is given to those already in the pattern and anyone making a Base leg or straight-in approach should give way.

    Another good source of advice for a Non-Towered airport pattern entry can be found in the ASF’s Safety Advisor ” Operations at Non-Towered Airports”

  3. viennatech Says:

    Your reference to Canada is not quite accurate. At an uncontrolled field it is suggested to pass OVERHEAD the field at the mid point of the runway to join a “mid-downwind” from the upwind side. This would not really be a crosswind join as you are flying over the mid point of the runway and not the departure end. This is safer than the 45 degree downwind entry I believe because you get to:

    1: Check the runway conditions and windsock as you pass over the field.
    2: You can see the traffic on Downwind or departure legs before turning in either ahead or behind them.
    3: Timing of the downwind, pre landing etc can be done consistently.
    4: If everyone uses the same procedure it makes it easy to spot traffic as most of the time the planes will be ahead of you instead of joining in from a 45 from behind.

    It is not mandatory to enter this way, you CAN join straight in downwind. If the firld is controlled then you can do these as well as any other join that is agreed upon between you and the controller. No matter what it’s always a good idea to voice your intentions over the ATF.

  4. David Reinhart Says:

    Like a lot of situations, it depends. The FAA safety guy for our area who recently retired was adamant about always overflying and making the 45 degree entry to the downwind if you were on the “wrong” side of the airport. At my home patch (FIT in MA) if you do that at night you’re putting yourself into a black hole with higher terrain where the obstruction lights are frequently inop. Doesn’t sound like such a good idea, does it?

    How busy is the pattern? If you hear nothing on the radio and your scan doesn’t pickup any NORDO airplanes, then entering on the upwind or crosswind at midfield will get you on the ground quicker and in this day and age avgas saved is not to be despised.

    If the pattern is busy and there appears to be a conga line for the 45 to downwind, then you’ll make every body’s life easier by overflying and entering the 45 farther out.

    I think the reason more of this is spelled out in the FARs is to give us flexibility when we need it. Head up and eyes out.

  5. Boone Tidwell Says:

    I fly out of Cody, Wyoming and in this beautiful satae there are very few controlled airports. My practice, when approaching an uncontrolled airport from the opposite side of the pattern is to first announce over the CTAF that i am so many miles from the airport and my intention is to fly a mid-field crossover to a left downwind to Rwy so and so. I prefer to fly the crossover at slightly above pattern altitude for safety reasons , aircraft without Comms, and if all is safe I announce that I am ” turning left downwind, Rwy so and so”
    Flying in such an uncontrolled environment simply requires situational awareness and good communications. I’ll take it over class Bravo or Charlie any day

  6. Boone Tidwell Says:

    I would like to add that the safest place to be at an uncontrolled airports is over mid-field.

  7. Warren Webb Jr. Says:

    I like the crosswind entry and I see other pilots here in central Connecticut use it too. I actually stay outside and parallel to the pattern track of the crosswind. You get a good view of the airport and all traffic (not so going overhead because of the blind spots). Then coming around to the 45 degree entry area, I’m able to pick the right moment and make my entry with good separation and if something unexpected happens, can easily turn away from the pattern, circle at a safe distance, and re-enter. I would not fly the crosswind at mid-field for worry of being boxed in – I worry about a nightmare scenario where I’m crossing over the runway with an airplane climbing at me on a go-around, an unexpected aircraft on the downwind, another unexpected aircraft either on the 45 or turning downwind from the crosswind, and yet another airplane flying over the airport 500 feet above me – nowhere to go.
    (I like the straight-in best whenever it makes sense).

  8. Jon Croghan Says:

    I prefer a midfield crosswind. I’m clear of the approach and departure ends of the runway and a left or right turn puts me on downwind for the runway. My airport, as are most around here, are uncontrolled fields so everyone is good about announcing position on the radio when approaching the field and again when entering the pattern.

  9. Mark Hutchins Says:

    I never make a crosswind entry at a non-towered field. If I am on the upwind side of the runway, I cross at 500 feet above pattern altitude at midfield, look down at the sock and pattern, then proceed 2-3 miles, descend to pattern altitude, and enter on a 45 degree entry from at least 2 miles out. This keeps me out of the established traffic, and is a big de-stressor for those in the pattern. Of course I have made radio calls announcing before crossing, and stating intentions, altitude crossing, and acknowledging any traffic I see.

    My fundamental philosophy is to make sure I am not conflicting with anyone in the pattern, so they never have to adjust what they are doing.

    If the pattern is truely empty, it doesn’t matter what entry you use, but that is a difficult assumption to make with congested radio traffic, and non radio aircraft.

    It saves a few tenths to skirt the recommended 45 degree entry, but in my opinion, you are putting others at risk, and I think the airport mid air collisions usually are the resule of the non-use of the AIM recommended 45 departure or arrival legs.

    The main idea, is to not fly either a departure or an arrival route, which crosses the established traffic pattern at pattern altitude.

    The closest calls I have had, are from aircraft crossing midfield at pattern altitude, as I was entering midfield downwind from the 45. This could have been deconflicted if the midfield traffic had over flown the field at pattern plus 500 feet, and followed in behind, by making a 45 entry behind me.

    Which aircraft has right of way if both are at pattern altifude, and both 1/4 mile from the midfield downwind, but one is on the recommended 45 entry leg, and one is on the “other side” of the airfield.

    Landing is a busy time in the cockpit….. now having to look for traffic who is about to cross midfield at your altitude, when you are occupying that same airspace is a completely unnecessary elevation of risk, and I think is a bad habit, and reflects an extremely arrogant, and reckless attitude.

    Having said all that……… If I flew out of a crop duster strip in the middle of nowhere, I would use a 360 overhead or midfield crosswind all the time…. but that is not what I would do at a public nontowered airport during daytime operating hours.

  10. Fred Simpson Says:

    Crossing overhead to join the mid downwind is indeed the preferred method in Canada. You can join straight-in downwind only if there is no conflict with anyone joining overhead for mid-downwind. As a Canadian pilot, I can assure you that this is what the Canadian AIM states and what is practiced by all pilots north of the 49th parallel. This method works well but only if everyone abides by the same rules. Joining overhead allows you to check the wind sock and confirm that the runway is unobstructed. Like any way of joining the circuit (sorry – pattern) it needs to be done at pattern altitude.

    What I like about this way of joining is that everyone is aiming for the same geographic spot – overhead the field at the mid point of the runway in use. Pilots should ensure that they cross perpendicular to the runway. This makes it much easier to spot other traffic. My concern with joining 45 degrees to the downwind is that every plane joining this method may be aiming for a different location along the downwind. Some may aim for very close to the base leg while others join closer to the cross-wind end of downwind. I find this makes it harder to spot approaching traffic as it is spread over a wide area along the downwind leg.

    I would love to see the overhead method adopted in the U.S. but I do not use this method myself when flying in the U.S. as it causes confusion to pilots who are not familiar with it. The overhead method of joining works because it has the right of way over those joining straight-in downwind. Unless everyone knows this, safety is clearly compromised.

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  11. Pedro Giralt Says:

    Most of my flying is to controlled fields, but I have many flights to uncontrolled fields, and many approaching from the “wrong” side.

    When approaching from the opposite side of the pattern, I either enter an upwind leg or a crosswind leg at pattern altitude. I find that visibility of the runway environment is excellent from these positions, and if I have to, I can modify (slow down, speed up, do s-curves, etc.) my approach to fit in with existing traffic.
    It’s the approach that gives me complete control of the environment.

    With any other type of entry, there is always a blind spot at some time during the maneuver.

  12. Scott Hansen Says:

    Worrying about who has the right of way if you face each other across the pattern is a simple matter of applying the standard right of way rules. It is not a problem. Midair collisions don’t happen because planes are facing each other in a pattern entry. Midair collisions occur when other traffic cannot be seen. That happens when one aircraft descends on top of another one. Descending to traffic pattern altitude near the airport is dangerous. A midfield crosswind at pattern altitude is one of the safest places to be. It is very easy and safe to join the pattern from this position, and spacing is easy to achieve and maintain. A 90 degree entry to the downwind from a crosswind is less risk than a 45 to the downwind which increases the time and area of vulnerablility.

    Inexperience with relative movement and closure logic may be why Mr. Hutchins thinks crosswind entries are “extremely arrogant and reckless”. Apparently he does not understand that two aircraft at a 45 degree angle of closure as in a downwind entry are more vulnerable than a closure of 90 degrees.

    Midair collisions in the traffic pattern are an ALTITUDE problem not a pattern entry problem!

  13. Marc Rodstein Says:

    I totally agree with Scott Hansen. When approaching crosswind at midfield, you have a great view of the downwind and any airplanes that are joining the downwind. Those airplanes are also able to see you, which maximizes the chances to “see and avoid”.

    By contrast, overflying the pattern and then joining the 45 makes you turn your back on potential unseen incoming traffic, and descend into the area of said arriving traffic while turning. There are moments during this maneuver that it would be impossible to spot the other traffic. In other words, you are blind to potential threats. Make your approaches crosswind at midfield, after an upwind leg if needed, and you can see everything that is happening in the pattern.

  14. William H. Hounshell Says:

    I was taught first to start LISTENING 15 miles out for traffic calls and to call unicom for information if necessary. Next, announce position 5 miles out and look, look, and keep looking. Then announce entry at pattern altitude either straight-in or at 45 degrees at the departure end of field . Announce turn to base and look for possible aircraft on long final. Announce turn to final and look down for other aircraft or moving shadows. If I’m approaching field from the entry direction of the active runway, I do a complete circuit starting with upwind and announce at every turn. That’s what I do. I don’t do mid-field entries or straight-in approaches.

  15. Carl Bastiani Says:

    I fully endorse Marc Rodstein’s comment on the danger of descending blindly into traffic on a 45 degree entry, especially at a busy non-towered airport like FDK, when following the AIM’s recommended procedure for pattern entry, if arriving from the upwind side. The AIM’s procedure made me so nervous that I quickly adopted the crosswind entry at pattern altitude, at midfield, or at the departure end of the active runway, depending on traffic. The crosswind entry keeps the entire field and downwind in view at all times, before turning downwind. And traffic is best spotted at your own altitude. All this of course assumes that you are listening while you are looking and announcing, and make appropriate deviations for what you see and hear.

  16. Bill McClure Says:

    I’ve always thought that the 45 entry was close to the worst way to enter a traffic pattern. Quite often it is easy to lose the airport, especially an unfamiliar one, while making perhaps a 120 degree turn to the 45. Also,It takes a lot of time to do. And, worst, it involves going “belly-up” in the turn to establish the downwind, at a time and place you should not be so blind. Though that procedure was taught to me in early civilian flight training, from the beginning of military flight training the obvious benefits of an upwind entry were apparent. One can see the entire pattern, and easily observe what traffic may be there, while remaining separated from other traffic on base and final by altitude.

    As far as crosswind entries are concerned, it depends on circumstances. When flying my Citabria, I find mid-field overhead joins best most of the time. The Baron, though, needs more time on downwind to slow, configure, stabilize. In that case, a departure end join makes more sense.

    Overall, I find a real tendency amongst aviators to be quite hide-bound about techniques they like, or were taught by their flight instructors perhaps decades ago. Too often these ideas become “the only way to do it”. I believe we ought to continue to listen to others and think about what makes sense.

  17. John Roberts Says:

    Having operated out of and around non-towered airports for most of my 7,000+ hr. career, I don’t feel there is only one right way to enter the pattern. It all depends on the circumstances. The common thing that should be stressed is that everyone should communicate and LOOK.

    For example, there is a great deal of difference in Saturday morning with other aircraft in the pattern and 10 PM at night when the airport is asleep.

    I also fly a nordo (No Radio) Aeronca Champ sometimes and not only do I have to be on the lookout for other aircraft, I try to remind other pilots to be looking for me.

    Oh, by the way, patience is required too. I have to remind myself that not everyone fly’s the small pattern that I usually do. I need a much larger pattern when in the turboprop then when in the Champ.

  18. Bob Hammesfahr Says:

    When I look at the where I should make my crosswind leg, I would prefer to make it at the T.O. point of the active runway. If I’m at pattern altitude and everyone is below me. If I’m at mid field there is the chance that there could be traffic already in the pattern on the downwind leg at pattern altitude.

  19. Bob Hammesfahr Says:

    When I look at the where I should make my crosswind leg, I would prefer to make it at the T.O. point of the active runway. If I’m at pattern altitude, everyone is below me. If I’m at mid field there is the chance that there could be traffic already in the pattern on the downwind leg at pattern altitude.

  20. David Tuuri Says:

    In the first place, your premise that what you describe are ‘crosswind’ entries is in error. According to the Pilot/Controller Glossary (and AIM) crosswind legs are flown ‘beyond the departure end of the runway’. Secondly, one of the maneuvers you describe does not comport with FARs that require ‘all turns’ be made to the left (exceptions disregarded here) while ‘approaching to land at an airport’. Specifically, at every spatial position of the aircraft’s flight path, it should be in compliance with the law, not conveniently or arbitrarily suspended at the whim of a pilot until aligned with the downwind leg. ‘Suspending the law’ is actually what the FAA has already done when it sanctions, via published recommendations, only one ‘right-handed turn’ (to enter the downwind leg at a 45° angle). So, from my point of view, both ‘solutions’ prescribed by the Safety Foundation are illegitimate, not to mention downright dangerous for the following reasons:

    1. Being overhead the mid-point of an airport is only a safe place if you’re hovering. It’s like being in the eye of a traffic hurricane.

    2. Unlike in Canada, where 45° entries are disallowed, here in the US crossing over the middle of the runway is incompatible with the high closure rate and small frontal areas of approaching aircraft on the FAA-sanctioned track. Visual recognition is impaired futher by the fact pilots of the perpendicular aircraft are concentrating their attention out the left window at the airport surface while conflicting traffic approaches (rapidly with small frontal area, remember?) from cross-cockpit ahead of the aircraft. Once the pilot begins to turn left, the likely area of approaching traffic is literally under the cowling or under the belly.

    3. For aircraft making this ‘cut across the pattern’ 500 feet higher, then flying 2-3 miles, THEN descending and TURNING RIGHT and re-entering the downwind at the sanctioned 45° angle, besides being blatantly illegal, is one of those those procedures that ‘may’ look good on paper, but in practice is virtually never done in a safe manner. To begin with, it requires more self-discipline than pilots can reasonably be expected to muster. We’re talking about flying directly AWAY FROM the object of the pilot’s desire, which is to land expeditiously on the airport just passed over, while maintaing altitude for, say, a full minute and a half. THEN making a descending turn the wrong way (right-hand) into the downwind leg. Even if done according to the recommended procedure, such a maneuver could still place the aircraft nose to nose with another on an arbitrarily-flown wider downwind.

    The usual fear of joining the pattern at the AIM-defined crosswind leg position, beyond the departure end of the runway, is unfounded. The reason most cited is that departing aircraft are approaching pattern altitude where the approaching aircraft is also flying–a fear born of inexperience. Low-time pilots are especially wary because they feel they won’t know how to deal with the situation–one, it turns out, they’re already trained to handle. They forget that, should they need to make a go-around from short final, due to an aircraft departing ahead, they would be in a similar situation. The same training applies at a higher altitude–give way and avoid the traffic. Follow or lead or pass behind. No big deal. The worst-case scenario would simply be to circumnavigate both the airport and the departing traffic, to enter downwind later as sanctioned in the AIM.

    I challenge the Air Safety Foundation to commission a scientific study that takes into consideration closure rates, frontal areas, fields of view and actual performance ability of random pilots while approaching an airport. Only then will the matter be settled satisfactorily.

  21. Dennis Bironas Says:

    Uncontrolled, busy, no or insuficient position reports, and NORAD are all safety concerns. Even consider that the 3rd Class Medical only requires 20/40 vision? Every field is different. Ever consider how others are taught? And where they are taught? Who they are taught by? My usual arrival procedure depends on the type of impending traffic (condsider TO and landing practice), time of day, weather conditions, type of aircraft, and other variables that can occur.

    An example of ‘other variable’ are being on DW and at mid field. And an approaching turbine AC (outside of the traffic pattern) approaching to the same RW Faster and burning more fuel announces their intentions. I responded (communicated) that I’d extend my DW in order to ‘make way’ for their arrival.

    What I’m hearing above are procedures and precautions (variables) to be aware of for any arrival. Sometimes none of these things work and as a result a safety incursion results; perhaps in a near miss or collision.

    Here are some recommendation:
    1. Instructors teach students for real world situations
    2. Communicate on the ground and in the air
    3. Listen Listen Listen (radio and conversation)
    4. Learn Learn Learn
    5. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that every pilot does things ‘your way’
    6. Learn to use everything you’ve hopefully been taught
    7. Learn to adapt to changing situations
    8. Consider being polite and understand that others do not know you or your intentions
    9. Realize that one question (how to get there) has many answers and obsticles to overcome
    10. You need to know who the players are in order to have a strategy
    11. Be aware that your strategy might also have to change with you’re impending arrival
    12. Realize that dynamics and statistics (chess) are always present for pilots and life for that matter

    Realize that ground (taxiing) communication is cheap and doesn’t travel far. Realize that air communication is cheap and travels far. Short, consise, and accurate reports are well appreciated.

    Consider the before and aftermath thoughts that should occur for yourself and others you’re sharing the airspace with.

    Think about what you would have done different to avoid that tragic collision.

    Think about being kind and considerate and erroring on the safe side of piloting.

    I’m done preaching. Just be sure to perform, what you perceive, is the right type of entry for the current circumstances.

    All-in-all, though, accidents will still occur but will probaly occur less frequent if you know where your targets are.

  22. John Tierney Says:

    I agree with most of the above responders that have or do use the cross-wind or upwind entry when approaching from the “wrong side”. If the pattern is empty or traffic is light I will use an upwind or cross-wind. When busy I make a 3-mile wide circuit of the field to get to the 45 entry position. I predominantly fly high wing Cessnas and I don’t like to fly over the field to circle around to get to the 45 entry because of the loss of visual on traffic as I bank the wings for more than 180-degrees to get turned around for the 45 entry.

  23. Chris Varner Says:

    I prefer to fly over the departure end when I make a crosswind entry. I often assume during my approach that the airport winds favor one runway only to find upon arrival that they actually favor the other. I can usually find and see the wind sock easier by flying over the departure end. In some cases, the runway I have chosen for landing is not the runway that the guy on the ground has chosen. By flying over the departure end, I can see the whole airport and any aircraft that may be setting up to take-off in the opposite direction. If I think that the airport is busy, I tend to cross-over 500 to 1000 ft above pattern altitude and enter the 45 to downwind.

  24. Brian Case Says:

    I agree that the midfield crossing entry is more efficient and as safe or possibly safer than the 45 entry in many circumstances. This is the Alternate Entry shown in the AOPA Safety Advisor.

    For those that argue that the AC90-66A is the only FAA reference on how to enter patterns, they should try reading all of AC90-66A. It says for addition information on operations at Non-towered airport, refer to the AOPA Air Safety Advisor document. It could be argued that this reference essentially makes the AOPA document an FAA document as well.

  25. George Colombe Says:

    If I am approaching the airport from a direction that requires me to cross the active runway I cross the runway at the mid-field point at pattern altitude.
    I like to be at pattern altitude about two miles from the airport. At that time I start looking for traffic that is departing and flying down wind. I don’t like to approach above the traffic pattern because that allows any aircraft in the pattern to blend in with all the ground clutter, houses, trees, big buildings etc, It is much easier to see aircraft on the horizon, at your altitude or slightly higher then you are. I don’t like crossing at the departure end because if you don’t see some of the high performance aircraft, usually high performance experimental types, they can easily be a pattern altitude by the time they reach the departure end of the runway and since they are coming from below you it is almost impossible to see them, especially in a low wing aircraft. Because I fly an airplane without a radio and several of the aircraft at our airport do not have a radio it is very very important SEE and avoid VS the talk and avoid practice of many pilots. When in the the airport traffic area I belive it is important to spend at least 90% or more of you time looking for traffic instead of talking on the radio.

  26. Nick Sargent Says:

    When approaching from the opposite side of the field, I typically announce my position at 5 miles out, again at about 2 miles, and favor the midfield crossing at pattern altitude followed by a distinct calling of “entering right downwind” or entering “left downwind”. If traffic is busy this gives time to sort out a courteous entry into the mix and has always seemed as safe to me as the 45 degree entry from outside the pattern. I like the ‘left downwind’ and ‘right downwind’ callouts due to lots of experience here in this area with opposing traffic patterns at 3 airports which I honestly believe are dangerous and where possible should be eliminated. My closest personal encounters have been at the departure end of the runway where I came very close to an aircraft crossing my departure path as it was crossing towards the downwind, and another when I was climbing out crosswind to remain in the pattern and conflicted with an aircraft making a straight in downwind entry (my least favorite of all!).

  27. James Averett Says:

    I like crosswind pattern entries and I fly them at the departure end at pattern altitude. This gives me (assuming L traffic) a good view of what’s going on on the runway. Few aiarcraft have the performance capability to climb to pattern altitude by the departure end of the runway so I feel comfortable there.

  28. Tony H. Says:

    It seems tome that we are digressing in our ability to communiate. After some pretty simple flight training about forty years ago, I never expected that so many people could take such a simple matter so far. That said, it was very enlightening to see how many pilots would dismiss their training for sheer conveniences sake. Patterns have been modified and mutilated to the point of absurdity: just because “it can be done:. This is just another oint in case of another segment of our society doing whatever it can get away with and throwing out whatever order without reason.
    If a pattern needs to be flown in a modified manner, there should be good reason for it and the traffic should have a least three radio calls to announce the approach, entry and final.
    We have succeeded at exploiting our own paranoia and making flying less safe by coddling those that don’t give a damn and get away with potential murder. I’m suprised we don’t have more accidents than we do.

  29. Joe Klein Says:

    I learned to approach the “opposite” side of the non towered airport at midfield and a plus two hundred feet above pattern altitude, then make a loop around and enter downwind from the 45 degree angle. I’ve never encountered a “conflict” using this method to enter the pattern. Also, it gives one a good look at the wind sock and segmented circle.

  30. jon wood cfi Says:

    it ant broke don’t fix it. cross over at a higher alt. ,let down and then enter at a 45. then everybody will be doing the same thing and aircraft will be where we expect them to be. follow the aim.

  31. P. Flinn Says:

    My preference is to overfly the runway at midfield 500′ above pattern altitude, then go out 1-2 miles, make a right or left 180, come back to the field at pattern altitude and enter the downwind at a 45 degree angle at midfield. You can’t always see all of the aircraft in the pattern, and entering the pattern with a midfield crossing entry is too risky for me. When you turn to enter the downwind, you can’t see aircraft that are already in the pattern on the downwind.

  32. David Alger Says:

    I commonly enter the pattern at our local airport from a mid-field crosswind. As you already stated it gives you a look at the windsock as well as a good overhead view of the runway and any possible hazards (deer,etc.) . While on the subject, I have two pet peeves on traffic patterns:

    The first is people who think they are too good (usually twins) to fly the pattern and fly straight in.

    Second , instructors who let their students fly the downwind leg seemingly a MILE from the runway! There is no set rules on this and if we have some aircraft far from the runway on downwind and others close in it leads to possible disasterous results. If everyone learned to fly close to the runway on downwind it would help keep everyone visible.

    On the Canada issue, I entered a patten at a 45 one time at a field where an instructor and student were in the pattern. As I was on SHORT final the instructor said on the radio “You Can’t enter the pattern like that!” After touchdown, I called back and said “Don’t EVER talk to me or anyone else on short final!” “If you’ve something valuable to say come down here and let’s talk!”

  33. Tom Morone, CFI Says:

    I prefer entering on the crosswind vs. flying over the field & then making an entry on the 45 for the same reasons stated previously. I totally disagree w/ the person that makes a straight in approach at a non-towered field; unless the field is IMC & only IFR flights are coming/going. Whether you enter mid-field or at the departure end depends on the length of the runway. If it’s less than 3000′ long, then I may enter on the departure end; but if it’s longer than that, I’d enter more mid-field. I don’t want an airplane taking off & then climbing right into me. I’m surprised that pilots will vary depending on how busy the airport is, since it only takes one airplane that you’re not aware of & may also not be talking on the radio to collide w/ you.

  34. Herb Pello Says:

    I’ve been specializing in multi engine and instrument instruction in a Piper Apache for over 30 years, and fly all takeoff and landing practice at uncontrolled fields. I have my students enter the crosswind leg approximately 1 mile upwind of the airport at pattern altitude. This will provide a normal downwind leg to accomplish the before landing “GUMPS” checklist before arriving abeam the touchdown point. I discourage my students from performing any checklists while maneuvering and like to have a normal length downwind leg for that reason.

    While approaching the runway centerline on the crosswind leg I have them scan the departure area of the runway for possible conflicting aircraft on the climb-out from the airport. Most light airplanes would not reach pattern altitude within a mile of the runway, but turbine equipment or a plane executing a missed approach procedure near the approach end of the runway would be a possible conflict. The only conflict I ever had by entering on a 1 mile crosswind was ironically with one of my other airplanes with one of my instructors and his student performing a missed approach from an ILS.

    It is of course also important to scan the outside of the pattern for traffic entering on a on a straight in downwind entry from the upwind side of the airport, or on a 45 entry. Obviously the appropriate radio calls should be made on CTAF, as well as monitoring the frequency closely. A call about 5 miles and again 2 out announcing that we will enter the crosswind is probably a good idea.

    By entering the crosswind at pattern altitude other traffic should be visible above the horizon. Flying higher than pattern altitude will cause other traffic to blend in with ground clutter. Unless terrain interferes I always encourage my students to reach pattern altitude about 5 miles out.

    In a fixed gear airplane I see no problem with crossing the airport midfield and enter the downwind from that position, since no GUMPS check is required.

  35. Don Plitnick Says:

    When I plan on making a crosswind entry I listen for the local traffic to determine whether a mid-field or departure end is advisable. When there is traffic in the pattern I opt for a departure end since I don’t want to enter mid field and possibly confict with another aircraft already established on downwind. If there is no or limited traffic then I will use a mid-field crosswind entry.

  36. Fred Gevalt Says:

    In 1968, when i first learned to fly, a 45 degree entry to the FULL downwind was certainly what my instructors, every other instructor, and the FAA examiner dictated, irrespective of the FARs at the time, of which I am now blissfully ignorant.
    Rationale was to standardize positions of landing traffic, so that situational statistics played in your favor, not just requiring Yeager vision and a 360 swivling neck.
    Today’s argument becomes different (like driving a car here in Massachusetts) precisely because everybody (as evinced by this thread) feels they can do it differently and do it their way. Ironically, that builds a good case for doing it your way, because you no longer have the advantage of knowing what the majority of pilots might be doing, which was the argument for the full 45 degree entry (and departure.) in the first place.
    I too, fly (occasionally) out of FIT. A few years ago, we had a midair on base leg between some hapless soul who was flying a standard left hand pattern, and a student WITH AN INSTRUCTOR who was flying a right hand pattern. This would tend to override Scott Hansen’s argument that head-on collisions aren’t particularly likely
    So now we’re back to the “anything goes, so it depends” point of view, which would seem to be the argument for safer flying in 2008. Having said that, it would be nice to know that somewhere in the pattern between entry and touchdown you could focus on flying instead of worrying about everybody else, so you characters who have admitted to straight-ins at uncontrolled airports ought to re-evaluate that practice.
    I still prefer more pattern than less. As an old seaplane pilot, it lets me eyeball the runway, the windsock, and unexpected things on the ground. I make a concerted effort to be at the proper pattern altitude, announce myself on every turn, and keep my eyes peeled. On those occasions when I’m positioned for a straight in, I ALWAYS fly the upwind leg, the standard offset from the runway.
    If we could get a return to the rules of yesterday, ‘twould be nice. “Defensive driving” is OK, but it really would be a help to know what everybody else was doing.

  37. rick charles Says:

    I have always known that other aircraft can be arriving from any direction so keep looking out and comunicate . After reading this , I am darn sure of it…”.Wow “

  38. Steve Knepp Says:

    I would say that it can be differant. However, when going into an airport that I do not know or the first time. I usually overfly eith mid field or crosswind and 500agl over the pattern. Like others have said I want to look the field over and locate the wind sock. The overall problem with non controlled airports is that many people do not know their distance from then field on downwind or fly such a bad downwind (3 miles wide) that they creat a lot of problems with tight flyers. A few times I have called entry to down wind and another calls the same thing on their first call (no first advisement a few miles out) and have not been able to loacate them and bugged out with a shallow decent. I as well havd had pilots decend almost on top of me as they enter the down wind.

    If you listin to their tone of speach you can normally get an indication of their experiance and confidance & abilities. I would say that one of the most important things in coming into a non-controlled field is to listin. Also, I ask ATC if they see anyone in the pattern and try to locate them and understand what they are doing before ebntering the pattern.

  39. Dan Kelly Says:

    I really dislike the idea of crossing the runway at midfield/pattern altitude. I have been nearly rundown by this guy many times. The difficulty is that the attention of each pilot is primarily focused to the left (in left traffic), but the threat for the entering pilot is on downwind and to his right. Once the entering pilot starts his turn to downwind he is blind to the aircraft that he is most likely to hit. My experience with this is that the entering pilot is closer to cruise speed than patern speed as he crosses the runway and uses a large power reduction and high bank angle to bleed energy in the turn to downwind where he will configure and begin a turn to base…. in other words he’s busier than he needs to be just because of the manner in which he chose to enter the pattern. That said, I have no problem with entering on crosswind beyond the departure end of the runway in use. Slow down, LOOK, and listen as well as announce your presence and inttentions. Be courtious, folks, it’s not a race, and nobody wins the right of way in a mid air collision! If we all had Chuck Yeagers eyes and Robin Olds situational awareness we could enter the pattern any old way that struck us without conflict. Sadly thats not the case so some careful thought and discussion is called for..thanks for the opportunity, Bruce. Ya’ll be careful out there.

  40. John Wilson Says:

    I have absolutely no qualms about the safety of crosswind entries and use them routinely. Generally I prefer to cross just off the departure end, giving myself a good view of both the airport environment and any possible traffic, plus plenty of downwind time to configure my own aircraft.
    I actually view “500 foot overhead and then maneuver to a 45 degree entry” to be the worst choice, as it puts you into a circling descent maneuver with its accompanying blind spots right in the area where other aircraft are typically approaching the field.
    My final comment, at the risk of offinding the purists, is to point out that flying a NORDO aircraft is second only to using the wrong radio frequency as the most dangerous single thing you can do in any traffic pattern.

  41. Shane Free Says:

    Crosswind entry @ midfield @ pattern altitude offers several safety advantages over entering on the departure end. Better visability of the pattern traffic (if any), and the windsock are obvious benefits. Also, entering mid-field eliminates the possibilty of a mid-air that could potentially happen if you were crossing the departure end of a long runway at the same time a STOL aircraft with a high rate of climb is climbing out after takeoff. I’ve been in a number of aircraft capable of taking off on the first 1,000 feet of runway and climbing @ 1,000+ ft/min, easily making pattern altitude before turning crosswind. Non of those, however are capable of making pattern altitude by mid-field after takeoff!

  42. Ed Maloof Says:

    There are probably as many opinions on this as there are pilots. But the one most important thing to consider is how safe is it at a particular airport. If the airport is served by an instrument approach, where is the instrument (practice or actual) likely to be either on the approach or on a published missed approach. At my home airport, the published missed approach for 3 different runways includes a climbing turn through pattern altitude to 2500 feet or higher back over the airport to the NAV Aid appropriate to that approach. During VFR conditions, while practicing, many pilots don’t communicate adequately on UNICOM to provide other pilots enough information on their position/altitude. This could be a very dangerous place to be. Not to mention that there are many NO-Radio aircraft flying about. Really not a good idea unless you are totally aware of all of the VFR / IFR profiles at the airport.

  43. Bill Franklin Says:

    Obviously there is variety in this area. The FAA does allow and in fact require pilot judgement.

    Normal runway configs, traffic, most seem to work ok. I like what I have read and understanding the logic is most helpful, but each situation is different.

    For instance, in the mid to coastal areas of our state many airports are uncontrolled ex-WWII military fields with three intersecting runways. Add occasionally silent traffic in the pattern, frequent parachute jumping (which thankfully is published) and a calm wind. Often all runways are commonly used and no calm wind runway is listed.

    Compounding the issue are IFR non-radar covered final approaches, often containing non-communicating low flying aircraft (Washington Center is 400 miles away). These approaches are typically straight even in VFR weather. Can be very exciting if you don’t mind finding a mostly silent 182 below your low-wing (tried that, does not work well on the passenger).

    And add to that the transient pilot (often me) who has no idea what the local pilot means when his postion report refers to a nearby beach, restaurant, or hilltop as his position from the airport.

    So, for me, contrary to even my Hawker rated friend’s preference, straight in on a non-towered field in VFR conditions is just like Russian roulette – you only have to miss one but it sure is painful if you don’t.

    Also, given those fairly common airport conditions, crossing mid-field (assuming you know which runway is active) I believe is generally safer, especially on fields with longer runways and low density altitudes. I generally prefer pattern altitude because I see the close-in traffic better. I do not generally prefer the fly well past, with a turn around, decend & enter on the 45 because a) no one flys the pattern the same distance out, b) pattern altitude is different for turbines in many cases (so you are still at someone’s pattern altitude), and c) decending onto traffic lost in the ground clutter or as the result of blind spots seems no less risky than than missing someone at pattern altitude.

    I certainly have done the fly above and beyond pattern and turn around when I cannot find the traffic and/or the traffic is announced and we cannot safely see and avoid, but so have we all.

    Again, the FAA does allow and require pilot judgement. Good flying.

  44. Kent Tarver Says:

    It all depends on the circumstances. The circumstances being the type of airplane you are flying, how busy the traffic is, how long the runway is etc.

    Simply this: You gather all the info you can on the present situation, process it with your grey computer and do it.

    I have never liked the idea of everyone entering on a 45 downwind. That is the most dangerous place to be on a busy sunday afternoon.

    Flying induces euphoria, euphoria induces danger.

    Ain’t that simple?

  45. Manny Block Says:

    There is no pattern entry procedure that can reduce the probability of a mid-air to zero. However the mid-field crossover at pattern altitude creates a particularly serious hazard. That is, conflicting traffic on the downwind leg of a left-hand pattern will appear as a stationary target in the right window. You will appear as a stationary spot in the downwind traffic’s left window. Stationary targets are the most difficult to detect. The eye is more sensitive to motion. Also, the dowinwind traffic is less likely to look left for traffic than to look right.

    The 45 degree entry to downwind recommended by the AIM reduces the probability of collision close to the field but a congestion point may develop where everyone is entering the 45 degree path a mile or two from the field. Good radio technique and head on a swivel is essential for any kind of pattern entry. They all have their good and bad points and the safest pattern entry msy depend on the situation.

  46. victor jones Says:

    I am involved with a volunteer organization that does work in Baja California. We fly into and out of uncontrolled (I use uncontrolled rather than non-towered as many people think they can ignore all rules while in Baja).

    My preferred method is 45 degrees at mid field. Entry at the departure end of the downwind has resulted in some “interesting” moments as “hotshots” make early turn outs at relatively low altitudes. Rarely is this an issue with a mid-field entry.

    While many may disagree on the specifics, the ultimate entry is made with eyes, and brain focused, and head on a swivel.

  47. Mike D. Says:

    As a low-time pilot, I have to echo the “Wow” from Rick. Until reading these comments I was under the impression that there were standards in flying patterns at uncontrolled airports and, furthermore, that my instructor and my DPE had both correctly taught and tested me on those standards. A right teardrop turn to a 45-degree downwind entry “blatantly illegal”? Wow.

    AIM chapter 4-3-4, paragraph (c) says only this: “When approaching for landing, all turns must be made to the left unless a traffic pattern indicator indicates that turns should be made to the right.” After I have crossed over midfield at 500-1000′ above TPA (300′ at my home airport, due to a class C shelf), and I’m 2 or 3 miles away from the airport on the pattern side, it’s “blatantly illegal” to make a right-hand teardrop? Based on the AIM sentence above? Wow.

    I agree with the principle of Fred’s post. Standards are there for a reason, and the recommended entry in AIM is 45 degrees to downwind at mid-field. As valid as any particular analysis of visual profiles and angles of incidence may be, it seems questionable to me that arbitrarily choosing your own preferred method of pattern entry in some way *improves* safety.

    We’ve got a P51 owner at my home field, and students are taught that this guy OWNS the airport when he’s flying. We get one radio call from him on 2 mile STRAIGHT IN final. Best get yer 172 out of the way when the (retired) general comes in. I doubt his airplane has ever seen a pattern with more than 1 turn in it. But it is pretty to watch.

  48. John Kelling Says:

    Any aircraft at pattern altitude should be in the pattern, whether on crosswind, downwind, or on a 45 degree entry, but being on crosswind at the takeoff end of the runway is iffy, and being at pattern altitude on a midfield crosswind, to me, is pretty dangerous.

    During a 45 degree entry there is a low probability of aircraft climbing from below you, but elsewhere in the pattern the danger of unseen aircraft below you is very real. A 45 degree entry allows a clear view of the entire pattern and runway. Because of this, when entering from the side opposite of downwind, I remain at least 500 above pattern altitude, which may be 2000 above the airport if there is 1500 AGL jet patten altitude, fly out a couple of miles and descend to a 45 degree entry.

  49. Nathan Says:

    I do utilize the crossswind entry technique at midfield if arriving at an airport from the wrong side-howeever I do cross 500-1000 hiher than pattern altitude, and if busy will extend and rejoin on the 45 to downwind. As a note though pilots need to be very careful when executing a maneuver such as this. It appears that on airport activities such as skydiving and glider ops takree into account the AIM when creating their areas. For example I am a towpilot and we utilize the area opposite of the traffic pattern as a glider training area. Many of our gliders do not have radios. Too many pilots do not take the proper preplanning precautions and read an AFD or other airport information. The airport actually has a published set of pattern procedures-and if an aircraft flys the crosswind entry they are now endangering both glider and tow pilots. We suffered a fatality about 20 years back due to this-so before you go try to find the airport website, check the AFD, and check any other valid information especially if you see the glider/skydiving symbol at the airport!!

  50. Tom Wilson Says:

    As a user of both 45 and crosswind entries, let me add that communication is the key. Not only radio comm, which is overly relied upon, but by flying reasonably accurate patterns so other pilots can visually find or discover you. Not everyone is on the radio, and not everyone on the radio is listening.

    When flying my open cockpit biplane radio calls are often difficult to understand due to the wind noise beating on the headphones. My radio calls in the pattern are often wind-garbled despite all technical and operational attempts to protect the mic (turning my head exposes the mic to more of the slipstream). My ability to spot traffic is heavily compromised by both high and low wings, struts, wires and 9 ft of cowling. Therefore my position reports are sometimes limited, and what I really want is to be able to see traffic. Radio calls are a big help, but ultimately only an aid to See and Avoid.

    Assuming light traffic, if on the “other” side of the pattern I descend to pattern altitude on the upwind, typically flying the length of the runway while keeping the runway slightly to the left (think of a 45 entry to the upwind). This allows an excellent view of the windsock, runway condition and traffic.

    I make crosswind at pattern altitude; departing traffic does not worry me as I’ve had an excellent view of it for a long time. What does bother me is going belly-up to in-coming 45 traffic at the crosswind to downwind turn, but at least I’ve had a good, long look at that wildly varying “45.”.

    When traffic is heavy then I’ll fly the extra miles well outside the pattern to make the standard 45 entry. But the convergence to and on the 45 calls for extreme awareness. Making the 45 entry from the “other” side also raises my noise signature on the ground, burns fuel, and if down-sun in the afternoon, could lead to a blinding 45 entry that combined with the wings and struts means not seeing anything when I should be seeing everything.

    Major beefs are C-172s flying B747-sized patterns and the insidious creep of tower-bred operations (position and hold, endless-radio announcements) at uncontrolled fields. Getting your brain outside the cockpit is what really matters.

  51. Bruce Says:

    pattern alt at mid-field downwind leg

  52. Rick Clark Says:

    The traffic pattern entry should be the one that gives you adequate spacing from other aircraft. If the traffic is light a mid-field crossing is fine. With heavier traffic an upwind leg entry may be better; then turn crosswind and downwind normally. If traffic is extremely heavy it may be better to overfly at least 500 feet above TPA, descend a safe distance from the airport and come back in on a 45. Use your judgment to assure adequate spacing.

    There is no “opposite” side to a traffic pattern, the crosswind and upwind legs are legitimate parts of the traffic pattern.

    Always enter traffic at traffic pattern altitude – never descend in the pattern. This is the only way you can “see and be seen”.

  53. Doug Dodson Says:

    I use the crosswind entry consistently when approaching an untowered airport from opposite the downwind. Bruce asked if I cross at mid-field or departure end of the runway. Well, like so many others, it depends. I cross at about 3000′ from the approach end of the runway. Therefore, I’m at mid-field on long runways and over the departure end on short runways. I chose this technique because I don’t encounter many aircraft that can get to pattern altitude in 3000′ feet during a takeoff. Early go-arounds are the only probable conflict.

  54. Gary Holden Says:

    The pattern entry at uncontrolled airports is not designated in the FAR’s so myself personally think any entry is acceptable. That said I use the recommended entry published in the Flight Guide. On the cross wind it depends on the speed of the airplane. A cub could enter midfield with no problems. A Bonanza entering midfield will be extending the down wind much farther out for the base leg. So cross wind past the end of the runway would be more appropriate. I certainly wouldn’t recommend to my student to make a 225 degree turn to enter on a 45 that close to an airport. With either high or low wing you have too much time in the turn with a huge blind spot. And as the previous poster suggests, always enter at pattern altitude.

  55. John Bard Says:

    My preference would be to enter downwind from a crosswind entry, two thirds of the way toward the departure end of the active runway, and 500 feet above patern altitude over the runway, decending to turn downwind at pattern altitude. The crosswind entry then will not interfere with runway arrivals or departures and give me a clear view of all potential traffic including the 45 degree entries. This entry also impacts a smaller noise sensitive area on the ground, at a higher altitude and at a lower power setting. The efficiency of decending into the pattern using altitude as stored energy with lower power settings ,enhances fuel efficiency.

  56. Don Morris Says:

    I fly everything from turf fields to Class B IFR and feel couttesy is the number one rule, and the one most often broken. But for the wrong side of the airport to crosswind I will try to use the mid field crossing at pattern altitude. Entering the pattern from “above” is cute, but you are not where everyone else is looking. To cross anyplace but mid field can cause problems with other planes in the pattern. Touch and goes are often students and I prefer to allow them to fly and let me do the working in to meet their speed and location.

    We don’t want a bunch of hovering planes waiting for an opening to head for the airport (that rteally is looking for a collision), so we must all “push” into the pattern and allow the pattern to expand downwind. Entering is best with communications and agreement where you will enter. The only two places where visibility allows this, even for the plane without radio, is on the 45 and the midfield cross wind at pattern altitude. As the one entering I expect to have to adjust my speed and timing to enter. Spacing may be lost which is the downwind extending process.

    I have seen unbeievably busy patterns work flawlessly when everyone is careful and considerate. One plane appearing in an unexpected and un announced position can be a real problem. Therefore I don’t want you to cross above the pattern and try to enter from above without going way out and reentering, at which point you are heading straight towards traffic arriving from the opposing direction.

  57. William Brown Says:

    Bruce….my way

    cross the run way at mid point..200 ft abovr pattern do a tear drop and enter the pattern at a 45 ‘(upwind).at the pattern altitude….you can see any planes in the pattern…prirer to entering the upwind phase ..if needed due to traffic at that point a 360 turn or two will get you in the upwind when clear….

  58. Warren Cash Says:

    I generally enter crosswind if I’m approaching from the other side of an airport for economy reasons based on several AOPA articles that I’ve read. I try to make them power off and rather steep so that I’m looking down at the upwind traffic which my simple PA28-140 makes easy and manage my speed in such a way as to minimize any further power application, again for noise and fuel consumption reasons. A noise sensitive airport manager actually complemented me on this approach and my simple 140 makes this an easy thing to do. Entry to the pattern is at pattern altitude and at a standard crosswind turning point that the pattern would normally use. I don’t enter a midfield crosswind due to parachuting activities that some airports might have so it’s been a personal rule with me. I fly around 100 hours a year and have been a pilot since 1981 I haven’t encountered any problems with this technique.

  59. Byron Warnken Says:

    If approaching from side opposite the downwind leg, I fly crosswind a little past (toward departure end) midfield at TPA. I need the extra distance to complete the turn to downwind prior to setting descent power and flaps abeam the intended touchdown point.

    If approaching from the same side as the downwind leg, I will usually fly to a point about 2 miles out on the 45 to the downwind leg, attempting to be at TPA at this point. Then inbound on the 45 to the downwind leg.

    I fly a 172XP and have total time of about 350 hours since restarting training in 2002.

  60. Don Gardner Says:

    I find a crosswind entry to be perferable in many cases and use this entry often at my home airport (WVI) Watsonville Ca. Talking to other pilots I find that they often believe the crosswind to be an illegal entry. I usually enter the crosswind over the numbers on the oposite end of the runway that I plan to land on at 500ft above pattern altitude. I find the view of the field and traffic to be better than in a 45deg entry.
    I enter over the numbers as it gives me a longer downwind, more time to stabilize on the downwind.
    Don Gardner

  61. Steve B Says:

    I learned to fly in Canada, where the mid-field crosswind entry is considered a standard part of the traffic pattern.

    The apparent lack of this entry in the US was one of the biggest things I had to adjust to when I started flying down here.

    If you follow the FAA AIM, the only entry is the tired old 45 deg to the downwind, which at best is inconvenient for 1/2 the arriving traffic. Using only this entry results in a lot of non-standard maneuvering in the airport area (but not the pattern) which has the potential to create a worse see and avoid hazard in the area than in the pattern.

    In Canada, the “Overhead to join the mid downwind” call is routinely heard on unicoms everywhere. The other alternative is “Straight in to the downwind”. Using these 2 entries results in more efficient entries no matter where you are relative to the aiport, compared to the FAA’s single entry choice.

    Here’s a link to the relevant portion of the Transport Canada AIM:

    You’ll see that entering on the crosswind when upwind of the airport is not an alternative. I have done this in the US a few times, but always felt uncomfortable because of the possibility of conflicts with departing traffic.

    The equivalent FAA info on this can be found at:

    At best the FAA’s version is vague, and at worst it is contradictory. Eg: Compare figure 4-3-1, which mentions an upwind leg and seems to indicate an entry via the crosswind on the upwind side (which can cause conflicts as mentioned above) to figure 4-3-2 which only defines the 45 entry to the downwind.

    Don’t get me wrong, I moved to the US for a reason and I love flying down here. But in this particular isolated instance I think we have a lot to learn from Red Green and his fellow Canadians.

  62. Alec Thigpen Says:

    So it seems that every one is using the entire traffic area for the approach, some crossing at altitude, some 500-1000 above, some 90 degree, some 45, opposite directions. In other words, completely random from a casual observer, if you see the entire 3-D picture.

    Count me in as a midfield crosswind, pattern altitude, left turn to downwind, left base and final. I have seen the other traffic, I know the wind direction, I see the runway and any significant obstructions, and I have communicated to those considerate enough to have a radio and use it. If the wind is from an unexpected direction and I hear no one on the radio CTAF, I can continue around the pattern for the other direction, still looking for any NORDOs.

    Yes, even ultralights and gliders can have a handheld radio and headset for minimal cost.

  63. Lee Cooprider Says:

    I prefer midfield crosswind entries; the visibility of aircraft in the pattern is better and it’s more efficient. When flying out and back on the 45, the airport and all relevant traffic is out of your field of view for a long time, and there may also be opposite direction aircraft inbound on the 45.

  64. Ron Strahm Says:

    Hey guys & gals. Stay away from the departure end of the runway when landing.. A high performance airplane taking off is busy, which would create the classic high wing climbing, low wing decending……onto each other, in many cases.
    It seems the only two safe methods are over the top, then turn to downwind, or a 45 degree into mid-downwind.

  65. David Tuuri Says:

    So far, the ‘cut right across the middle of traffic pattern’ bunch seems like the ‘me generation’–it’s all about them, isn’t it? They’ll just run over anyone inconsiderate enough not to have a radio, as long as they can land next, right?

  66. Dennis Vail Says:

    As a low-time pilot I would be motivated to defer to the more experienced individuals represented here, but they’re obviously by no means in agreement. My first instructor taught me to enter from the upwind side on a standard crosswind leg, but I’ve come to feel that presents too much danger of conflict with departing aircraft. A subsequent instructor (I had seven in all before my private-pilot checkride) encouraged me to overfly at midfield somewhat above the pattern and make a teardrop descent to a 45-degree entry. (We are limited in altitude, because there is an IFR approach to a larger nearby airport almost directly above us at 1700 feet agl.) However, I’m pretty will convinced by the arguments aginst this procedure presented here. Crossing at pattern altitude presents too much danger of conflict with airplanes already on downwind and, unless the runway is pretty long, doesn’t leave enough time to get set up on a stable downwind before reaching the numbers. Diving into a downwind from higher up seems to me even more problematic. One thing I have picked up from this discussion is the inadvisability of straight-in VFR approaches (none of my seven instructors discouraged me from making them). It seems probable that the safest thing to do, when approaching from the upwind side or from straight out, is to fly the whole pattern including the upwind, despite the extra time involved. In my case, alas, that would conflict with noise-reduction policies (we have right patterns on two of the four runways, which I also agree creates a danger, especially on calm days). So I’m still conflicted. The one thing I’m convinced of is that you can’t communicate too much; far better some extra radio traffic than not enough. Happily, at our airport there is very little non-radio flying, except for the cropdusters, and you never know what they’re going to do anyway.

  67. Rick Freeman Says:

    Patterns were created to provide a flow with a safety margin. With this, we have an expectation as to what the other guy is going to do. The AIM is a guideline, a 45 to downwind is the recommended path, traffic usually dictates how we enter.

    Any entry pattern will work, crosswind, extended base, 45 to downwind from an outboard arrival or a 45 from an inboard arrival, off of an overhead maneuver. A good lookout and communication are essential.

    I find pattern size more of an issue than entry. I have had more close calls with aircraft, I thought, were departing the pattern, were so far away on downwind or were so far downwind that I discounted them from my traffic scan, only to find them suddenly an issue. Traffic patterns are much larger today than when I earned my private license in 1965. Aircraft pattern speeds are much the same. A 45 entry on downwind, on altitude, requires diligence. You may be crossing in front of someone who fly’s farther out than you do. Both are doing the assumed pattern, all within the guidlines, but at different perspectives. Be careful……….

  68. John Lindholm Says:

    Flying over the airport at pattern altitude plus 500 ft and going out to make a right turn-around to the 45 degree entry borders on being a death wish, in my opinion. Such maneuvering is putting your aircraft directly in the path of higher airspeed aircraft and turbine aircraft (runway permitting) that are most often flying a wider traffic pattern…. necessary for increased turning radius and higher airspeed causing overtaking of other aircraft, etc. Since these aircraft are required to fly at 1500′ agl in ATC patterns, they often do it at non-controlled airports also. Their cockpit workload and visibility also contribute to marginalized safety.

    Crossing mid-field at reduced airspeed at pattern altitude allows the pilot to see the downwind segment of the traffic pattern so entry can be made safely. Aircraft beginning downwind should easily be able to sequence behind the aircraft turning from the overhead crosswind entry. The crosswind entry should NOT be made over the departure end of the runway as high performance departing aircraft might conflict… and you’re also becoming a conflict to departing pattern aircraft that are still climbing on their crosswind leg.

    As I recall, approximately 75% of all mid-airs happen within three miles of an airport (the traffic pattern) and of those, appoximately 75% are overtaking collisions. YOU are often at the mercy of the pilot you can’t see. Anything you do to minimize your pattern exposure will increase your safety factor. Flying a “tight” pattern will automatically keep you in an area that higher airspeed aircraft cannot operate in the pattern.

  69. George Ritter, Reno, NV Says:

    Bruce, I’m of the old school where the 45 to downwind is the accepted rule. This was fine where you have clear visuals ( no back ground obstructions) of the aircraft in the pattern as in basically flat terrain. In the mountain areas where I fly, I find that each approach to landing is normally standard 45% of the time. However, 65% of the time you must consider your flight environment, type of turbulence ie..wind shear, rotor, wind direction and volicity in relation to the mountains, your pattern and runway. In some cases rotor and vertical wind shear will exceed the structual strength of the aircraft or it’s climb capability, so all these factors must be considered.

    Depending the direction that I approach the airport from and the winds and turbulence I’ll normally make a mid field cross wind entry starting 1/2 mile out and 500′ above pattern altitude communicating my position and altitude. This gives me the best opportunity to visually evaluate the overall pattern situation and complete my flight with the least risk.I guess my rule of thumb is to use common in the enviorment that you fly and keep good communications.

  70. John Meyer Says:

    I would say it really depends on the airport. If it is a fairly busy nontowered airport and there is already traffic in the pattern then its best to follow what others are doing, which is likely to be using the 45% entry here in the states. In this case there really is no reason you need to pass over the wind sock for a good look because that has already been established. If you still have a question about the winds, you need only listen and/or ask other traffic ahead of you. I do like the crosswind entry if lack of traffic permits. Enter at least a couple hundred feet above pattern midfield and take a look. No problem. The main thing is to join the flow at busy places. There’s a reason a “Freeway” is still the safest way to travel by car (if you can’t fly). Everyone’s going the same direction.

  71. John Mulvey Says:

    It really depends on the airfield. At my home airport which has a 3000 foot paved strip with instrument approaches, I often find myself approaching on a direct 90 degree pathway to the preferred runway in a perfect set up to a crosswind to left downwind. On this short strip, crossing at the departure end is the only way to go, as I need the room in my Mooney to get set up for an appropriate downwind final landing check, and there is no way there is anyone leaving the field at pattern altitude by the departure end of the runway.
    At a 5,000 foot strip relatively close to my home field I’d be much more likely to enter at midfield. It gives me enough room to maneuver and I’m not at the altitude of departing traffic
    Let’s not carve this in stone and realize that we often need to make decisions based on the situation at hand.

  72. Reid Baldwn Says:

    In this situation, I prefer to join an upwind leg, then fly the remaining four legs of a standard traffic pattern. This gives me more turns, which is a traffic spotting advantage. Traffic that would have been stationary in my field of view during one leg of the pattern would not be stationary during another leg, and therefore is easier to spot. Likewise, I would not be stationary in the other pilot’s field of view for at least one of the legs. (I fly a high wing and make a habit of banking away from my turn for a moment to check for traffic before turning.)

    Typically, I would fly the crosswind near midfield. However, that is one of the variables I use to make adjustments for other traffic. I also would adjust that if the airfield has skydiving.

    As many have mentioned, there are many factors that might cause me to deviate from me preferred entry. For example, there may be traffic that I have heard or spotted that would be in conflict with that entry, so I adjust.

  73. Michael Grant Says:

    My 40 years of flying have taught me one thing… There are a lot of stupid pilots doing a lot of stupid things when they fly into uncontrolled airports. I have seen so many near misses that I have learned not to trust anyone in the air at an uncontrolled airport. I could take up 25 pages telling you the stories of fright that I have wittnessed but that is for another book.

    As far as I am concerned there is only one safe way to enter the traffic pattern at an uncontrolled airport. And let me say it is absolutely NEVER straight in. I was taught 40 years ago to overfily the airport at midfield at no less than 500 feet above traffic pattern altitude and preferably 1000 feet above TPA. Always cross from the upwind side towards down wind. This allows the pilot to check out the airport, the winds, the other traffic in the pattern, etc. This places the aircraft well above any other traffic in the pattern. Read this as SAFE. After overflying the airport and crossing the down wind portion of the pattern, turn outbound at a 45 degree angle towards the departure end of the runway and decend until 500 feet above TPA then make a 180 degree turn back towards the airport (or 2 90 degree turns if you like). This will place you on the 45 inbound decending to enter the traffic pattern at pattern altitude. One of the most important components of this method is that you announce your position inbound to the airport stating your current position and your intentiions to overfly midfiled and at what altitude, when overhead you announce your position, when turning outbound on the 45 announce your position and when turning 45 inbound again announce, announce again when turning downwind. With this proceedure you know when your traffic is because you overflew the aiport and saw it. Your traffic knows where you are because you told them every step of the way. If every pilot would use this proceedure everyone would always know where their traffic is and what they are doing. Even a NORDO entering the pattern would know what to expect for traffic and the other pilots would know where to look for traffic entering the pattern. No surprises! Many years ago I worked for Piper Aircraft setting up dealerships and flight centers and worked as an FAA Accident Prevention Counselor. I always taught this method to everone I met. To a person they all told me that this was the safest and most comfortable method of entering a uncontrolled airport traffic pattern that they had ever used.

    Unfortunately there is always some hotshot jockey out there with more money and ego than flying ability who will always fly like he owns the airspace. Unfortunately the airplane is 10 miles ahead of the pilot. And he just busted his way into the traffic pattern …..

  74. Michael Grant Says:

    Ok…maybe I should have read all the comments from everyone else BEFORE I wrote my comments. Not that I would change anything based on their comments. I definately would not. BUT I would ask this question. “Who is the genious who believes that making right hand turns when flying outbound on the 45 for re-entry is illegal” This person may have read the AIM but he definately does NOT know what he is talking about. I am an ex-Air Traffic Controller. The AIM states left turns while IN the traffic pattern. Over flying the field 1000 feet above TPA is NOT in the traffic pattern. Making turns inbound 2 miles away from the airport is NOT in the traffic pattern. Just because you can read does not make you an expert. Before you lead others astray with your brillance please make sure that you know what you are talking about.
    That said…please accept my apology for getting bent out of shape, but there are all too many arm chair experts experts here. And that scares me. More than flying into an uncontrolled airport does.

  75. J. Hamm Says:

    Every instructor with whom I’ve ever flown in 20 years has said “Don’t do it” (crosswind pattern entry) for clear reasons with which no fault can be found. A crosswind entry, partiuclarly mid-field, places the A/C in hazard of near head-on confliction with 45 degree entries and side collison from aircraft established on the downwind. The moderate bank required to turn downwind will block vision at the most crucial time and locations. A departure end crosswind puts the A/C in proximity of aircraft leaving the pattern in the prescribed 45 degree exit, and with “closed pattern” (touch and go) traffic. Visibility in both cases will be restricted by climb attitude. 2 local DE’s and a bona-fide FAA examiner insist that the only proper way to enter a pattern is from a position at pattern altitude on the 45 leg. All 3 point out that while the AIM and FAR’s suggest several entry options, in the event of an incident, anything but the 45 will leae the pilot’s actions subject to question. The 45 entry provides the best visibility and surveillance of the traffic situaltion, assuring that all aircraft are (theoretically) level at the same altitude. Sounds logical to me.

  76. Michael H. Green Says:

    There are many ways to enter the traffic pattern at an uncontrolled airport and I’ve seen most of them, but I believe only one way is the right way. Without posted instructions to the contrary, you enter the middle third of the downwind at a 45 degree angle and at traffic pattern altitude. Am I missing something here?

  77. Fred Simonds Says:

    At Lantana airport (LNA) here in southeastern Florida, an overhead 1500 ft to a 1000 ft 45-degree entry to runway 9 is not possible because there is Class C airspace down to 1200 ft surrounding the entire airport. I would not be eager to do this in any event – too much low-level maneuvering and descending into the pattern are both bad ideas, and so awkward!

    From the south we routinely fly north over the numbers for 27 and turn left. This feels safe to me because we can easily see anyone on crosswind and anyone to our left on downwind or entering the downwind from the north on the circling VOR approach.

    For this latter reason I dislike the idea of crossing the runway midfield as it puts the airplane on a collision course with anyone entering the downwind from the approach.

    Departures on runway 9 to the northeast are not common because of the Class C. In any event, there is probably no airplane at LNA short of an aerobatic airplane that can be at 1000 feet by the departure end of runway 9, as no jet traffic is allowed.

    We also do parallel upwind approaches where we fly upwind and then turn crosswind over the opposite runway numbers. I never encountered this until I began flying out of LNA, but it is safe and necessary given the Class C.

    Everyone who flies at LNA knows these procedures. Transient pilots are at a disadvantage, because there is nothing in the AF/D about them.

    I don’t think blanket absolute statements are wise. Decisons should be made in context. What makes sense at LNA with Class C all around the airport is not necessarily right everywhere.

  78. Paul Preziose Says:

    I fly over midfield at 500 feet above the pattern so I can see the wind sock and avoid the pattern. I extend out about a mile then do a descending turn so I am at pattern altitude at the 45 degree entry point. If there is more than a plane or two in the pattern I avoid this and fly to the other side and do a normal entry. We have lots of students and if they haven’t been exposed to that method I don’t want to confuse them. I will occassionally do a crosswind entry at my home field but wouldn’t feel comfortable doing it at any other field.

  79. David Tuuri Says:

    Michael Grant Said:

    June 6th, 2008 at 10:53 pm

    “’Who is the genious who believes that making right hand turns when flying outbound on the 45 for re-entry is illegal’ This person may have read the AIM but he definately does NOT know what he is talking about. I am an ex-Air Traffic Controller.”

    Did you mean me? I’m no genius, but at least I can use spell check. YOU ought to read FAR 91.126(b) before you accuse others of not ‘reading’. Here, let me help you out:

    § 91.126 “Operating on or in the vicinity of an airport in Class G airspace.
    (a) General. Unless otherwise authorized or required, each person operating an aircraft on or in the vicinity of an airport in a Class G airspace area must comply with the requirements of this section.

    (b) Direction of turns. When approaching to land at an airport without an operating control tower in Class G airspace—

    (1) Each pilot of an airplane must make all turns of that airplane to the left unless the airport displays approved light signals or visual markings indicating that turns should be made to the right, in which case the pilot must make all turns to the right; and…”

    Here’s the definition of “approaching” (found in a dictionary, a place you ought to visit sometime).

    “ap·proach (-prch)v. ap·proached, ap·proach·ing, ap·proach·es
    1. To come near or nearer, as in space or time: Spring approaches.”

    Now YOU can explain why flying “OUTBOUND” while approaching to land and “RE-entering” the viciniity of an airport (you admit to entering it twice per approach) is legal.

    OR, take your own advice: “Just because you can read does not make you an expert. Before you lead others astray with your brillance please make sure that you know what you are talking about.”


  80. Dan Hoyt Says:

    As a pilot for over 30 years and a current flight instructor at a busy non-controlled airport, I have seen the risks of crosswind entries either mid-field or at the departure end. These entires are particularly hazardous since they gennerally oppose “normal” traffic entering on the 45. It’s always a dangerous surprise when someone shows up on a crosswind entry, since most people are looking for others to enter on the 45. I always teach 45 entry on the 1st third of the runway.

  81. Mark Hutchins Says:

    First of all, when at least 10 miles out, I have already listened to the AWOS and monitored the CTAF, so I know what the winds are, and have been following the progress of traffic in the pattern.

    If I am approaching the upwind leg side of the field, I will transition overhead well above pattern atltiude, fly beyond the traffic pattern, typically 3 to 5 miles, make a descent to pattern altitude, and enter on a 45 entry. I will have been at pattern altitude for 3 or more miles, which puts pattern traffic easily seen against the horizon. Since I am nowhere near the traffic pattern, there is no problem with making right or left turns, and I am not descending in the pattern either…. I have been in level flight at pattern altitude for miles.

    I find that the 45 merge with the downwind leg, gives me more time to see downwind traffic, and adjust my speed for separation. It doesn’t do me any good to be 1000 feet behind a C-152… I try to create a space of 1/2 mile or so behind any existing traffic, primairly so I don’t have to make a go around because I didn’t allow adequate spacing.

    Alternatively, I will just simply fly 5 to 10 miles around the airport, usually at pattern altitude, until I am lined up for a 45 entry…. In either case I will enter on the 45, after having made the appropriate radio calls, and listened to the CTAF.

    My fundamental attitude when approaching the airfield, is to do what I can to facilitate someone else’s pattern…. In other words,… if I see an aircraft at the hold line waiting to depart… I might ask them if they would like me to extend my downwind so they can take off…. If I am on the 45, and someone is turning downwind, I will fall in behind them, or depart the pattern and re enter a couple of minutes later.

    Courtesy and attitude are really critical to non-towered airport ops. Most of my fellow instructors have good situational awareness of the pattern, and we’ll do things to help each other in and out of the pattern… by extending a departure leg, or downwind a bit to help someone else out.

    I don’t have a problem with someone using a midfield cross wind, so long as they don’t cause me to have to alter my flight path to avoid a collision. If we are in radio contact, and they willfully cross midfield and cause a collision hazard for me so that I have to take avoidance action, I will file a complaint with the FAA and let the FAA sort it out.

    My personal procedures are what I was taught by an extremely senior FAA Safety Inspector. He specifically told me not to use any form of crosswind entry, so I am just complying with the best practices, as told me directly, by the highest authority I have met so far.

  82. Cuper Richardson Says:

    Many airfields out here in the mountains have a lot of glider traffic at certain times of the year. Typically, powered traffic flies on one side of the runway (left and right patterns) and the glider traffic flies on the other. The gliders usually have only a battery powered handheld for communication. In spite of what “ought to be” there is a lot of glider traffic where you might be in a crosswind entry and they don’t talk much. I simply don’t go there.

  83. John Lindholm Says:

    A few things to consider:

    The FAA regulations do not specify what an airport traffic pattern’s dimensions are. They do say that under normal circumstances, all turns (if any) must be made to the left… yet the AIM depicts a 45 degree entry with a RIGHT turn to enter the downwind.

    There are always two issues that prevail in a topic such as this….. Safety and Legality.

    Those of you who are floundering around outside of the downwind leg making descending right turns to maneuver back to the 45 degree entry segment are compromising your SAFETY and possibly mine… unless you like having a fast MEL or Turbine aircraft looking you in the face.

    In traffic pattern operations….. let the flyer beware..!!

  84. John Lindholm Says:

    “I don’t have a problem with someone using a midfield cross wind, so long as they don’t cause me to have to alter my flight path to avoid a collision. If we are in radio contact, and they willfully cross midfield and cause a collision hazard for me so that I have to take avoidance action, I will file a complaint with the FAA and let the FAA sort it out”

    Might want to think twice about that. If the aircraft is ahead and to your left… turning inside of you, YOU are required to veer right and yield, passinig them on the right if they are slower. Once they are inside of you in the pattern, they also have the right of way. The FARs often REQUIRE you to alter your flight path to yield right of way. Make sure you aren’t the one causing the collision hazard. Best to know the rules VERY well before calling the FAA… let alone telling another pilot who is flying wrong. Ever wonder why we pass on the right with aircraft… versus on the left with vehicles? Rule was designed for pattern conflicts.. relative to a pilot’s position (visibility) in the cockpit.

    Hope you aren’t the same guy who thinks when you’re on base leg that you have the right of way over the aircraft on an extended final approach.

    Pattern flying OFTEN requires altering your flight path.

    FWIW…. if you choose to do a 360 for spacing…. it must be a LEFT turn to comply with the FARs. Don’t even think of making a right one.

  85. Tom Muller Says:

    Entering at mid-field from certain directions can save gas by getting you on the ground quicker, but I would not do it unless I was low on fuel, something I try never to do. A mid-field entry puts you abeam the numbers almost immediately, even though you are still above pattern altitude. Since most of us use this reference to begin our descent this can lead make it more difficult to set up a stablized approach and leave you either short or high on final.

    I try to enter crosswind nearly all the time.

  86. Jeffrey Kornblum Says:

    I have used both approaches to downwind but find flying over midfield above pattern altitude and then a descending right turn back to enter 45 degrees on the downwind is the safest and gives the best view of the airport, wind sock, and traffic before entering the pattern. Entering at the end of the runway on crosswind is quicker however a departing plane may well be approaching your altitude as you cross the end of the runway and you will be head to head with traffic entering with standard 45 degree entry technique. Entering crosswind mid-field is not really a crosswind and puts you in direct conflict with others in the pattern. On a short runway you will also be very rushed to be established on downwind before your are a beam the numbers.

  87. V.C Says:

    After reading some of the responses, I would rather fly into LAX than an uncontrolled airport. Some of the responses speak loads about the sorry state of affairs when it comes to the level of flight instruction or the lack there of that is being dispensed in today’s environment.

  88. Mark Hutchins Says:

    I would like John Lindholm to present his responses and mine to the FAA at his FSDO, and let them decide. I will abide by what they say.

  89. Chuck Dodson Says:

    I love the crosswind entry when approaching the uncontrolled field from the “wrong side”. I always cross at mid field because that pretty much insures that there will be no conflict with aircraft taking off that I might not have seen, or that might not have been announcing his intentions. Also, the mid fielld cross over makes my initial approach on the inactive side of the runway where, theoretically I should encounter little or no other conflicting traffic. It also lets me observe the active side of the pattern for other traffic either entering on the 45, or on downwind while i’m in the process of crossing over the field.

    It seems to me that overflying the airport at an altitude higher than the traffic pattern and then letting down on the active side can be a v ery dangerous thing to do particularly if one is flying a low wing airplane. After all , that is the active side where one would expect all the traffic to be. To decend into that traffic can be hazardous to one’s health. By flying a mid-field crosswind at traffic pattern altitude one has a birds eye view of any traffic on the busy side. It goes without saying that one should broadcast one’s position at every turn so that other traffic knows where you are, and what your intentions are.

    The reason I always use the mid field crosswind, rather than crossing over at the departure end is because someone flying a Pitts, Eagle, etc. can easily be at pattern altitude at the departure end of a 3500 to 4000 foot runway. With a maximum effort climb into a stiff wind thay may well be able to do that at mid-field but, frankly I have never seen it done.

    Chuck Dodson

  90. Tom Austin, Jr. Says:

    I prefer a crosswind at midfield at pattern altitude. speed should be at the initial approach speed for the aircraft being flown. The approaching pilot then knows exactly where to look for other aircraft entering the patern or already in the pattern.

  91. Arlie Raber Says:

    Although we do not have a lot of traffic here at U76, I find that entering the downwind crossing mid field is safer for me as well as other pilots. When announcing position of a mid field entry, The area to scan for other pilots is narrowed down to the area directly over the airport. If I were to enter from the departure end of the runway the area for other pilots to scan is much more vast than the first. This is my reasoning forproceding the way that I do. Although we have to be flexible in our decisions as other pilots do not approach in this same manner.

  92. Ed Reading Says:

    I flew for years at a hairy nontower airport and encountered conflicts of various kinds in the pattern. Others in the pattern are seldom where they say they are. “On the 45″ while five miles out is common. I find the safest place to be, particularly at an unfamiliar airport, is over midfield. From there, one can view everything in the pattern and check the windsock as well. So I prefer the Canadian system and use it when I can. But if it’s busy, and some different routine is in use, I don’t buck the system, I get in line.

  93. John Lindholm Says:

    Mark Hutchins Says:

    June 7th, 2008 at 7:10 pm
    I would like John Lindholm to present his responses and mine to the FAA at his FSDO, and let them decide. I will abide by what they say.


    As you should know, Mark… what an inspector at a FSDO says means little. In fact, many are reluctant to give anything that is close to an “official” opinion. I would hope that your knowledge of the FAR right of way rules is sufficient to know that what I’ve said is true.

    Simply put, if the traffic entering on crosswind over the airport is intercepting you, they must veer right to turn behind you. If they are in front of you as they turn downwind, you must yield if your spacing gets too close. It’s a simple concept of basic right of way rules.

  94. Bill Fusselman Says:

    After reading all of the responses so far, I think I would prefer crossing mid-field to the downwind, with all of the right of way rules that have been stated, over the 45-degree entry for the following reasons:

    1. A few weeks ago, approaching the airport from the “wrong side” and complying with the “Recommended” 45-degree pattern entry, I crossed the departure end of Runway 18, 500 feet over pattern altitude at Marianna, FL, checked out the windsock and traffic (none) and entered the 45-degree to the downwind via a left descending turn from about three miles out to the Southeast. I deliberately decided on a left turn entry to the 45, and turned Southeast after crossing the field before descending to pattern altitude because I realized that either a right or left turn to the 45-degree entry point would put me in the direct path of the final approach course for the VOR or GPS-A approach from MAI VOR, which is located about 4 miles Southeast of the field and I wanted a clear view of anything on the approach that might be approaching from the VOR and not transmitting position on CTAF. By opting for the left turn from a position South of the final approach course from the VOR, I had a better view of any oncoming traffic before making my turn back to enter on the 45 degree entry. There was no reported traffic, but someone could have been flying practice VOR/GPS approaces, diving from the VORTAC to the MDA, or just finding the airport by tracking outbound from the VOR. I really felt that the 45-degree entry, in this instance, was more hazardous than a mid-field left turn to a downwind leg would have been.

    2. With the proliferation of tall towers close to airports, of which the FAA can do little if anything, it seems to me that maneuvering to a 45-degree entry several miles from the airport might place you in conflict with radio/TV/Cell towers as well as approaching aircraft. The need to enter and fly the 45-degree entry at pattern altitude does not guarantee separation from towers a few miles from the airport and turning from the opposite direction to enter the 45-degree to the downwind might place the aircraft in the proximity of tall towers a few miles from the airport. We are trained to look for other airplanes but towers are usualy not given the same search priority as are aircraft.

    As a final comment, lacking standardization of pattern entries, why not publish a recommended pattern entry in the Airport/Facility Directory and other online publications that today just say PATTERN: LEFT. Something like “Mid-field Crosswind-to-downwind preferred as opposite direction entry.” Given terrain, noise abatement and other factors, one size does not fit all, but at least publish what is preferred and expected.

  95. Mark Hutchins Says:

    John, what do you do if the downwind is full, and you are approaching for your midfield crosswind…. do you circle on the upwind? do you cut through into traffic on the downwind?

    As I have stated…. I have no problem with the midfield crosswind, so long as it does not affect those already in the pattern.

    If there is no conflicting traffic, the midfield crosswind is an elegant way to get on the pavement.

    I love the midfield crosswind, personally. I don’t personally use it though, if there is traffic in the pattern.

    The problem only occurs when you have others already on the downwind or about to turn downwind from the preferred 45 (per AIM). It is my understanding that those established on the downwind or 45 have priority and right of way.

    This means you should yield to those aircraft.

    If you are saying your attititude is that “If I get there first , it is mine” then lets be clear about that…. this is why most midfield crosswind entries are with gear and flaps up, …. they are really using higher speed to beat traffic that has slowed to normal downwind speed.

    When you are crossing the runway on your midfield crosswind , just before turning downwind, are your gear and flaps already down, or do you wait until you have made your turn onto downwind to bleed your speed for gear and flaps?

    As far as the FARs being memorized….. nope…. unlike you, I don’t claim to know all of the FAR’s as they pertain to anything…. I have to look stuff up.

    John…have you ever had to S-Turn on downwind to keep your spacing behind a slower aircraft? Aren’t half of those S-Turns to the right?

    So, to summarize. John… you reject the AIM recommended 45 entry procedure….and you have written… “what an FAA inspector says means little.”

    All I have said is..if I am on downwind, and you cut me off, by flying a midfield crosswind, I am going to file a complaint to the FSDO and let them decide if there was any reckless behavior.

    If you didn’t cut me off….then there is no problem.

    My aircraft has a recorder that picks up all radio transmission audio and video ahead of the aircraft, so the whole episode can be empirically evaluated.

  96. Joseph N. Greulich Says:

    Hello, We discussed this (Non controlled airport traffic safety) at a FAA sponsered safety meeting that I attended a few weeks ago and the Canadian approach was mentioned. I was not aware of this and needed more though as I onced was cutoff mid dowind by an aircraft crossing from the oppsite side. I like to enter from the oppsite side using the 45 entry upwind, then the left cross wind. It gives you more time to observe the pattern condition , wind, traffic, and aircraft configuration. Common sense was the FAAs call, along with using the radio. Changing runway directions is easier using the 45 downwind entry, during changing winds or impatient pilot operations. J Greulich 03346582

  97. John Lindholm Says:

    Mark Hutchins Says:

    June 8th, 2008 at 8:18 am
    John, what do you do if the downwind is full, and you are approaching for your midfield crosswind…. do you circle on the upwind? do you cut through into traffic on the downwind?
    I would simply yield per the “right of way” rules…. which in this case would most likely have me circling off the upwind to pick a spot for xwind & downwind. **********

    The problem only occurs when you have others already on the downwind or about to turn downwind from the preferred 45 (per AIM). It is my understanding that those established on the downwind or 45 have priority and right of way.
    This means you should yield to those aircraft.
    Your understanding is wrong. Standard right of way rules as listed in the FARs pertain to all flight operations, including the uncontrolled airport traffic pattern (final approach being the exception). Like it or not, busy uncontrolled traffic patterns are a free for all and you best hope everyone is looking outside their aircraft and playing by the rules. In more than 40 yrs as a CFI, I am still amazed when giving a BFR or flying with someone else how often the pilot looks at the airport and maybe ahead….. rarely looking to the RIGHT (outside) of the flight track (and TP) for the potential of conflicting traffic. ****************

    If you are saying your attititude is that “If I get there first , it is mine” then lets be clear about that…. this is why most midfield crosswind entries are with gear and flaps up, …. they are really using higher speed to beat traffic that has slowed to normal downwind speed.

    When you are crossing the runway on your midfield crosswind , just before turning downwind, are your gear and flaps already down, or do you wait until you have made your turn onto downwind to bleed your speed for gear and flaps?
    That’s not my attitude…. but it still might be valid from a postition standpoint….and yes, it is good airmanship for the crosswind aircraft to be configured and slowed down when crossing the airport. As you know, that is not always the case. That is because of sloppy airmanship… no different that a ME blasting into the pattern from the 45 degree entry. ***********

    As far as the FARs being memorized….. nope…. unlike you, I don’t claim to know all of the FAR’s as they pertain to anything…. I have to look stuff up.
    ********** I know them well…. but often must look them up too *********

    John…have you ever had to S-Turn on downwind to keep your spacing behind a slower aircraft? Aren’t half of those S-Turns to the right?
    Of course…. as is a right side-step to comply with the right of way rules of overtaking another aircraft. Just a simple case of one rule trumping another, in this case, a right turn to prevent a collision is allowed. *********************

    So, to summarize. John… you reject the AIM recommended 45 entry procedure….and you have written… “what an FAA inspector says means little.”
    I was just pointing out one of many unique factors of what the AIM says versus a literal meaning of the FARs. That is not a rejection. As for the FAA inspector, when it comes to regulatory things (your complaint)…. FAA legal has 100% authority, not the inspector. I’ve often said, “ask three FAA inspectors for an opinion on a FAR or procedure and you will get FIVE answers.” *************************

    All I have said is..if I am on downwind, and you cut me off, by flying a midfield crosswind, I am going to file a complaint to the FSDO and let them decide if there was any reckless behavior.
    Again, I would caution you to make sure you know what you are doing and can back it up. Personally, I would never involve the FAA in a non-life threatening issue…. but I would certainly take the opportunity to communicate with the other pilot. If he/she told me to stuff it, then I still have the option to go to the FAA. Most of the Feds are good folks, but it only takes one to make your life miserable, even when you might be right. ********************

    If you didn’t cut me off….then there is no problem.
    My aircraft has a recorder that picks up all radio transmission audio and video ahead of the aircraft, so the whole episode can be empirically evaluated.
    Just remember that your version of “cutting you off” might not stand up. Your toys give you an advantage… and I assume you still concentrate 99% of your effort to looking out the window and flying your aircraft safely.

  98. Bert Staehling Says:

    Let me ask this question. Why did the FAA (ala Verne Jobst) suggest a standard procedure for entering a traffic pattern using a 45 degee entry to the downwind?

    Secondly, how many incidents and near mid-air collisions are reported when all the pilots use the standard 45 degree entry?

    This is my 35th year since I got my private in 1973 and it seems to me that the only time safety was compromised was by pilots using other than 45 degree entries into the pattern.

  99. Mark Hutchins Says:

    John LIndholm states….

    “Like it or not, busy uncontrolled traffic patterns are a free for all and you best hope everyone is looking outside their aircraft and playing by the rules.”

    I don’t disagree with this at all….it is a factual statement…. why is it a free for all?

    1. You have school aircraft in the pattern doing closed patterns.
    2. Aircraft entering the pattern from straight in (fake practice ILS approaches with one pilot onboard).
    3. Real practice approaches,
    4. Folks just flying a straight in, because they want to.
    5. folks entering on a wide right base even though it is left traffic (usually corporate aircraft.
    6. Folks on a midfield crosswind at pattern altitude.
    7. Folks on a midfield crosswind above pattern altitude who then descend into the downwind.
    8. Folks flying crosswind off the departure end of the runway.
    9. Folks flying a 45 entry to upwind, then crosswind, then downwind.
    10. Folks practicing the VOR approach, crossing midfield crosswind at 500 agl
    11. Folks flying head on into departure leg, because they are practicing our GPS approach.
    12. Folks making a “crosswind departure”, so they fly up and through the 45 entry leg.
    13. Folks making a “downwind departure”.
    14. The local RV figher pilot wannabees flying 360 overhead, in formation, with 10 second separation breaks into the down wind.
    15. Folks entering on an “8 mile left base”.
    16. Corporate Jets or turbo props flying a high midfield cross over to a 5 mile wide downwind. (I think this is the way to go for them…rather then being behind me on a 45 or downwind).
    17. And a few pilots who enter on the 45 to the downwind.

    It is true you had better be focused outside the aircraft. There is no doubt that it is actually a free for all.

    Good radio communication really helps sorting it all out. I would like the see the FAA get us discreet frequency, so we are not hearing 5 other airports at the same time.

  100. David Tuuri Says:

    Mark Hutchins Says:

    1. You have school aircraft in the pattern doing closed patterns.

    2. Aircraft entering the pattern from straight in (fake practice ILS approaches with one pilot onboard).

    3. Real practice approaches,

    4. Folks just flying a straight in, because they want to.

    5. folks entering on a wide right base even though it is left traffic (usually corporate aircraft.
    Not legal–91.126 requires left turns

    6. Folks on a midfield crosswind at pattern altitude.
    Not legal–91.126 requires ‘approaching’, not ‘approaching’ then ‘flying away’ then ‘approaching yet again’

    7. Folks on a midfield crosswind above pattern altitude who then descend into the downwind.
    Not legal–see #6

    8. Folks flying crosswind off the departure end of the runway.

    9. Folks flying a 45 entry to upwind, then crosswind, then downwind.
    Not legal–see #5

    10. Folks practicing the VOR approach, crossing midfield crosswind at 500 agl
    Legal–91.126 allows this if “authorized or required” by the SIAP, but can’t take advantage of this to gain a right of way under 91.113(g).

    11. Folks flying head on into departure leg, because they are practicing our GPS approach.
    Legal–see #10, but not too bright.

    12. Folks making a “crosswind departure”, so they fly up and through the 45 entry leg.
    Not legal–careless and reckless, against AIM. Not what a prudent and reasonable pilot would do.

    13. Folks making a “downwind departure”.
    Not legal–see #12. Not considerate either.

    14. The local RV figher pilot wannabees flying 360 overhead, in formation, with 10 second separation breaks into the down wind.
    Not legal–see #6. Can probably secure special authorization though FSDO.

    15. Folks entering on an “8 mile left base”.
    Legal, as long as they make an 8 mile final too.

    16. Corporate Jets or turbo props flying a high midfield cross over to a 5 mile wide downwind. (I think this is the way to go for them…rather then being behind me on a 45 or downwind).
    Not legal–see #6

    17. And a few pilots who enter on the 45 to the downwind.
    Not legal, see #5, however FAA declines to enforce and in fact describes how to do this in the AIM.

    So, it’s tie: 8 legal, 8 illegal and one not contested.


  101. Phil Cohen Says:

    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.

  102. Mark Hutchins Says:

    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?

  103. Jon Griffin Says:

    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.

  104. M.K. Chatterji Says:

    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.


  105. John Lindholm Says:

    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

  106. Dennis Cmunt Says:

    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?

  107. Don Kronen, ATP/CFII Says:

    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

  108. Bob Kisin Says:

    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.

  109. David Tuuri Says:

    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.

  110. John Lindholm Says:

    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.

  111. David Tuuri Says:

    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.

  112. John Lindholm Says:

    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.

  113. David Tuuri Says:

    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.

  114. John Lindholm Says:

    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?

  115. Bill Fusselman Says:

    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.

  116. Bill Fusselman Says:

    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.

  117. Scott Randolph Says:

    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).

  118. David Tuuri Says:

    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.

  119. Mark Hutchins Says:

    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.

  120. Rudy Terry Says:

    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.

  121. Josh Says:

    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!

  122. Ed Rumpeltin Says:

    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.

  123. Chris Wilson Says:

    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….

  124. robert hasiak Says:

    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.

  125. Ed Rumpeltin Says:

    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.

  126. R J Busson Says:

    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.

  127. Kevin Keith Says:

    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.

  128. Mark Hutchins Says:

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

  129. Joe S Says:

    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.

  130. Brian Says:

    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.

  131. Ray Says:

    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.

  132. Bill Says:

    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.

  133. Jim Kelly Says:

    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.

  134. Barry camp Says:

    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.

  135. Chuck Lindberg Says:

    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? .

  136. Wade Zingler Says:

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

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  139. rp Says:

    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.

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