The Traffic Pattern
The Traffic Pattern
The traffic pattern is an orderly way of entering and departing an airport. Flying the traffic pattern appropriately makes us predictable to other pilots, which helps avoid mid-air collisions.
Our traffic pattern lesson covers more about the basics of the traffic pattern. in this lesson, we want to talk about how to fly it. For most light training airplanes and most traffic patterns, the general steps are:
- Turn crosswind around 300 feet below TPA
- Turn downwind about 10 seconds later
- Reduce power, start configuring and start descending once “abeam the numbers”.
- Turn base around 700 AGL and add flaps as necessary
- Turn final around 500 AGL and add caps as necessary
- Maintain a stabilized approach to landing
This is only 7 steps: but there’s a lot to unpack in each step.
Takeoff: Make a radio call, verify the area is clear, line up on the runway, add full power, verify gauges green and airspeed alive, rotate, climb out at Vx or Vy as required and trim to maintain the climb and reduce control pressure.
Turn Crosswind: Make sure there is no traffic in the direction of your turn, roll into a coordinated turn, make a radio call, come out of the turn.
Turn Downwind: Make sure there is no traffic in the direction of your turn, roll into a coordinated turn, make a radio call, come out of the turn. By now you’ve probably reached TPA, so level off, set a low cruise power, and track parallel the runway.
Abeam the numbers: Reduce to descent power, drop the gear (if applicable) add flaps (if applicable) and begin a descent to the runway. Perform a landings checklist or GUMPS (Gear, Undercarriage, Mixture, Prop, Switches)
Turn Base: Turn base, and make a radio call. In many airplanes, you’ll add another notch of flaps on the base leg.
Turn Final: Turn final and make a radio call. In many airplanes, you’ll add another notch of flaps on final. Fly a stabilized approach, meaning you are on airspeed, on glide path, and the runway isn’t moving up or down relative to your view from the cockpit. The landing point should appear to be growing in size, but not moving.
Landing: As you near the runway, slowly reduce power to idle and raise the nose to slow your rate of descent, aiming to touchdown at or near a stall with almost no rate of descent. After landing slowly and gently lower the nose to the pavement and apply brakes as necessary, maintaining back pressure to induce aerodynamic drag. This will help you reduce wear on the brakes.
Kinda complicated. That’s why the key is to chair fly.
None of these steps are particularly hard, they just require us to build habits. When you chair fly you build these habits for free. The more you chair fly, the better you will be in the airplane. Chair flying is the #1 way to reduce your training cost!
What steps take place during takeoff?
What tasks usually occur around the point “abeam the numbers”?
Why is it important to maintain a stabilized approach?
How do we determine if we are flying a stabilized approach?
What are the general steps of a landing?
Why do we maintain back pressure after landing?
Do we add back pressure after landing? Why or why not?