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.”
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.
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.
17 Put flaps down at different points on downwind, when beginning the approach. Truth is that within certain limitations, where the flaps are started down isn’t super critical. However, whatever your favorite flap style, use it every time, and do it in a manner befitting the airplane and situation. A good approach is built on consistency.
18 Put down different amounts of flap to begin the approach. Although there are specific types of approaches where we may want to put more flaps down than usual, on “normal” landings, we should put the same amount of flap every time and in the same place.
19 Neglect to use a specific point on the runway as the place to make downwind power reductions. Again, under the heading of “consistency,” use the threshold as a readily identifiable point to make the first power and configuration changes. This kind of consistency always pays dividends.
20 Buzz the tower if the controller is holding a cup of coffee. Top Gun‘s Maverick and Goose can get by with these kinds of high-jinks, but not the rest of us mere mortals.
21 Ignore POH approach speed. Faster is always better. Faster is never better (except in specific conditions). Besides, the factory spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in flight testing to determine the proper POH approach speed, so use it.
22 Neglect to worry about nose attitude, and just chase the airspeed needle. Immediately moving the nose and chasing the airspeed needle will cause immeasurable heartburn. Reset the nose attitude, let it stabilize, then check the airspeed and adjust attitude, if necessary.
23 Ignore flap speeds: They can’t be damaged so throw them out at any speed. Wrong, wrong, wrong! Flaps have very specific operation speeds for each degree of deflection which should be strictly adhered to.
24 Neglect to worry about speed. As long as speed is in the green arc, you’re okay. Go back and read #21 about the correct POH speed. The airplane changes characteristics drastically the further you get from that speed, and the green arc only tells you where the airplane stops flying, not how well it’s flying just before that point is reached.
25 Push the nose down to get rid of altitude if you’re high on glideslope. Yes, pushing the nose down will get rid of altitude, but at the cost of increased speed. On light aircraft, nose attitude is the primary control for controlling airspeed and power controls altitude (still a controversial subject, by the way).
26 Don’t go around for any reason. Once committed, land! This kind of attitude is plain crazy! As long as you have fuel and decent weather, there’s no landing that absolutely has to be made. If it’s not going well, go around.
|Be sure to enter the pattern at pattern altitude. If you enter from above, you increase the chance of coming down on top of someone else and having a mid-air collision. Fly at the same altitude as the rest of the traffic so you can see them, and they can see you.|
27 As long as you’re flying a tri-gear airplane, don’t worry about straightening it out in a crosswind. At some level this is true, but it’s not only a truly terrible flying technique, but can side-load the gear and damage it. Align the nose with the centerline with rudder and use bank angle (ailerons) to kill the drift. It’s all about proper flying technique.
28 Have an attitude of: We have the right of way and won’t give in to anyone for anything. This is another stupid way of looking at flying. A lot of people who had the right-of-way are dead because of that attitude.
29 Because of our right of way, there’s little reason to look for traffic: They’ll give in to us. Flying is all about safety, and safety is all about survival, and both are built around seeing the other guy and avoiding him. Fly like you’d ride a motorcycle: with huge amounts of paranoia and defensiveness. We’re in a combat zone up there and should conduct ourselves accordingly.
30 Don’t believe any of the numbered lines above. We were just funnin’ with you, so don’t do any of them. Professionals or not, we don’t do them.
The truth is that there’s an unlimited number of no-nos we should avoid doing in the pattern. If each of us thinks about it for a minute or so, we can come up with another half-dozen things we shouldn’t be doing. By investing a little gray matter analyzing the situation and coming up with our own list of no-nos, we create a positive image by eliminating the things we’re not supposed to do.