Non-Towered Airports

Non towered airports traffic patterns are always entered at pattern altitude. How you enter the pattern depends upon the direction of arrival. The preferred method for entering from the downwind leg side of the pattern is to approach the pattern on a course 45° to the downwind leg and join the pattern at midfield.

 

There are several ways to enter the pattern if you are coming from the upwind legs side of the airport. One method of entry from the opposite side of the pattern is to announce your intentions and cross over midfield at least 500 feet above pattern altitude (normally 1,500 feet AGL.) However, if large or turbine aircraft operate at your airport, it is best to remain 2,000 feet AGL so you’re not in conflict with their traffic pattern. When well clear of the pattern—approximately 2 miles—scan carefully for traffic, descend to pattern altitude, then turn right to enter at 45° to the downwind leg at midfield. [Figure 7-4A] An alternate method is to enter on a midfield crosswind at pattern altitude, carefully scan for traffic, announce your intentions and then turned down downwind. [Figure 7-4B] This technique should not be used if the pattern is busy.

Figure 7-4. Preferred entry from upwind leg side of airport (A). Alternate midfield entry from upwind leg side of airport (B).

Figure 7-4. Preferred entry from upwind leg side of airport (A). Alternate midfield entry from upwind leg side of airport (B). [click image to enlarge]

Always remember to give way to aircraft on the preferred 45° entry and to aircraft already established on downwind. In either case, it is vital to announce your intentions, and remember to scan outside. Before joining the downwind leg, adjust your course or speed to blend into the traffic. Adjust power on the downwind leg, or sooner, to fit into the flow of traffic. Avoid flying too fast or too slow. Speeds recommended by the airplane manufacturer should be used. They will generally fall between 70 to 80 knots for fixed-gear singles, and 80 to 90 knots for high-performance retractable.