Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, July 31, 2012

30 Things Not To Do In The Pattern


A how-to guide that guarantees lousy landings


So much of aviation education is built around doing things right. We train, we preach, we write about every correct flying technique imaginable. This time, however, we thought we'd look at safety and flying techniques from a don't-do-this angle. In other words, "Please don't do these things at home, kiddies. We're not professionals, but even we know they don't work."

DON'T:
1 Ignore ATIS. There's never anything important/interesting on it. ATIS may not play your favorite tunes, but it's the only way you're going to know ahead of time how serious the wind is, its direction and what runway they're using. Plus, for all you know, the field could be closed. ATIS has lots of good info, and is required listening at towered fields.

2 Wait until two miles from the field to call tower. Towers don't like surprises, not to mention that it's illegal to enter their airspace without calling them first. Also, they need to sequence you in with other traffic and need as much forewarning as practical.

3 Neglect to use an N-number or tell them where you are or what you want. You're sharing the airspace with lots of other airplanes, so they need to know where you are and what you'd like to do, so they can set up landing sequences.

4 Enter 1,000 feet above pattern altitude and descend on downwind leg. This is how you set up a mid-air collision: by coming down on top of someone else. It's important we be at the same altitude as the rest of the traffic so we can see them on the horizon, and they can see us.


Obey tower's instructions in the pattern. Their mission is to maintain an orderly, efficient and safe flow of traffic.
5 Maintain cruise speed until actually on downwind. If you're flying a Cub, or something similar, and your meager cruise speed disappears the instant the throttle comes back, you might get away with flying downwind fast. For everyone flying a more modern airplane, we need to fly downwind at reduced power to get our speed down to a more manageable level.

6 Enter downwind without a standardized entry leg. There's a reason we've pretty much standardized on a 45-degree entry leg—that gives us the best view of the traffic already in the pattern. It also puts us in a position where other traffic know where to expect us.

7 Ignore the pattern and fly long, low, power-on straight in approaches. Flying a long straight-in approach can put us in the position that will conflict with traffic that's flying a traditional rectangular pattern. Plus, a rectangular pattern is easier because our visual references at the end of downwind are easier to see. Also, long approaches are a bad place to be if the engine decides to quit.



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