Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, July 31, 2012

30 Things Not To Do In The Pattern

A how-to guide that guarantees lousy landings

Given fuel and decent weather, no landing has to be made. If things aren't going well, make a go-around.
8 Neglect to check the windsock on uncontrolled fields. Wind's effect is minor. WRONG! Wind can be your best friend or worst enemy, and knowing how to read the sock gives you important information before making the landing. It also tells us which direction traffic is likely to be flowing.

9 Over-fly the airport at exactly pattern altitude to check windsock. Never over-fly an uncontrolled field less than 500 feet above published pattern altitude. We don't want to be crossing at the same altitude as everyone else, just in case we missed seeing them. Even higher is better.

10 Select your own runway direction without announcing it on Unicom. Just because no one answered when you called doesn't mean no one is out there. A little paranoia never hurts.

11 Neglect to announce location in pattern or your intent on ground Unicom. If you don't tell people where you are and what you're doing, you're inadvertently making yourself a target.

12 Fly downwind at different heights every time. Our goal is to arrive opposite the end of the runway with exactly the same amount of energy every time, so our gliding distance will be the same, and that energy is dependent on our height and speed.

13 Fly downwind at different distances from the airport every time. Energy is the name of the game, and the amount required is affected by our position in reference to the runway. So if we're in a different place every time, nothing in the approach after that is consistent.

14 Fly downwind at different speeds. "Different" doesn't work at the Initial Point opposite the threshold. Speed, altitude and position have to be as close to being identical from landing to landing so we at least start the approach in the same place and conditions.

15 Ignore all radio calls except those giving clearance to land. Bad idea! The tower sees the big picture and how we fit into it, so even a minor directive from them could include information and directions that will help us avoid another aircraft.

16 Fly the pattern as you think it should be, not as directed by the tower. Although it often appears that the tower is trying to impose their authority in an effort at telling us what to do, their real mission is to maintain an orderly, efficient, and most of all, safe flow of traffic. So, listen to them.


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