It is likely one of the first things you will learn about in flight training …and for good reason. Flying the perfect traffic pattern is one of the most important building blocks of your pilot’s license. Every subsequent maneuver: stalls, slow flight, turns around a point, and even spins are done in preparation for traffic pattern flying. Today, we are going to show you the standard traffic pattern, the pattern altitude, non-standard patterns, and how to enter the traffic pattern. Think of this as your ultimate guide to flying the perfect traffic pattern. Let’s turn final and dive into patterns… What is the standard traffic pattern? The standard traffic pattern consists of a downwind, base, and final leg. As the graphic shows, the downwind leg is parallel to the active runway and in the opposite direction of the landing. On this leg you will likely have a tailwind, assuming the wind is in the direction of the runway. Next is a left turn to the base leg, which runs perpendicular to your landing direction. Here you may have a crosswind requiring some rudder/aileron correction. Lastly is your left-hand turn inbound for final. Throughout this whole process, you are making power and pitch changes to begin a gradual descent. The standard traffic pattern will have you make all left turns in order to keep the runway threshold closest to the pilot’s window. What is the difference between towered and non-towered traffic patterns? At a non-towered airport, you will need to make radio calls announcing your position entering and progressing through the traffic pattern. For example, “Homer traffic, N2423U, entering a left downwind, runway 22, Homer traffic.” At a towered airport, there is no need to do this because the tower has you in sight. If you’re still struggling with visualizing the traffic pattern, try Angle of Attack’s Online Private Pilot Ground School. Our graphics are really helpful when trying to visualize a traffic pattern. Studying with our Ground School will get you well prepared for when you enter a traffic pattern for the first time. What is the MSL altitude for the traffic pattern? The MSL altitude for a proper traffic pattern is normally, 1,000 feet above the airport’s elevation. For example, The Space Shuttle Landing Facility (KTTS) in Brevard County, Florida has an airport elevation of 10 feet above sea level. So if Discovery ever decided to fly back from...Read more
FBO is the acronym for “fixed-base operator.” In layman’s terms, an FBO is a private terminal. While this term is known worldwide due to the growth of corporate aviation, it is more common in the United States. When you book a charter flight, your agent will likely advise you which FBO your flight will depart from. …Read more
Piloting an aircraft is not challenging once you get the basics right. And one of aviation’s basic concepts is airplanes’ left-turning tendencies. Instructors spend a great deal of time educating the concept of left-turn or yaw to students. Basically, they’re trying to explain why a plane pulls left during takeoff and how to deal with …Read more
The National Airspace System is categorized into multiple classes based on the needs, functions, or levels of control by the FAA. Ranked from the most restrictive to the least, these classes help control air traffic by looking after which aircraft type is suitable for which class. In this guide, I’ll discuss the various airspace classes, …Read more
A safe flight is subject to the pilot’s proper visibility during takeoffs, landings, and in-route. If there is any issue with that, there are high chances of air traffic conflicts and collisions between aircraft. The FAA has laid out some minimum visibility and cloud clearance requirements every private pilot must meet to avoid getting into …Read more
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