CHAPTER 10. Airport Traffi c Patterns

Chapter Summary

Airport patterns provide organized air traffi c fl ows into and out of an airport. An airport traffi c pattern is established appropriate to the local conditions, including the direction and placement of the pattern, altitude to be fl own, and procedures for entering and leaving the pattern.

The legs of an airport pattern from takeoff are:

  • Departure—direction of takeoff on the centerline of the runway
  • Crosswind—fi rst 90° turn fl ying perpendicular to the takeoff direction
  • Downwind—second 90° turn fl ying parallel to the takeoff direction opposite the direction of takeoff and landing
  • Base—third 90° turn fl ying perpendicular towards the runway centerline
  • Final—forth 90° turn headed down the centerline of the runway to land

Pilots must research and determine from prefl ight preparation the possible runways and patterns for runways at the intended airports for the fl ight. The pilot must determine the actual pattern at the airport from observation and talking with other pilots on the CTAF or from the wind direction if no other pilots are in the pattern. Normal airport patterns are always left hand unless indicated otherwise.

Additional information on airport operations can be found in the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge, the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM), Chapter 2, Aeronautical Lighting and Other Airport Visual Aids, Chapter 4, Air Traffi c Control, and Chapter 5, Air Traffi c Procedures; and 14 CFR part 91, Subpart B, Flight Rules, Subpart C, Equipment, Instrument and Certifi cate Requirements, and Subpart D, Special Flight Operations.

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