Entering a pattern

Questions and comments about the PE Pilot Training Program

Entering a pattern

Postby yycflyer » Thu Jan 03, 2019 6:00 pm

I completed CAT 8 today but was really unhappy with myself for the pattern entry. I was given instructions to enter Left base RWY 15 for KBUR (I think L base). I was coming in on a heading of essentially 090. Very quickly I got mixed up in how to enter Left base for rwy 15 and in the end, the controller cleared me for RWY 8.

So my question is: how does one get into the correct L or R pattern when flying into an airport? I have trouble figuring out, for example, for RWY 15 and it is a Left base, I need to come in from the L of rwy 15, so that is a bearing of 090???...blah blah blah, confusion and errors.

How does one enter correctly, thinking on the fly in the air, or do you plan your entries while on the ground?
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Re: Entering a pattern

Postby kevin meyers » Thu Jan 03, 2019 6:30 pm

Are you sure you were instructed to enter a LEFT base for runway 15? If you were coming from the west, that doesn’t make much sense.
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Re: Entering a pattern

Postby yycflyer » Thu Jan 03, 2019 7:20 pm

It may have been right. Point is I lost awareness as to how to enter that from where I was. Any tips or tricks for quickly figuring it out, or is it all pretty natural?
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Re: Entering a pattern

Postby kevin meyers » Thu Jan 03, 2019 11:31 pm

The left/right refer to the direction of the traffic pattern. More simply put, “left traffic” is all left turns while “right traffic” is all right turns. The left/right have no meaning as far as which side of the runway you are on as that would vary based on where you were. Does that answer your questions? You should have learned about pattern entry during the early CAT ratings. Pattern entry is a critical building block to flying and is used in both IFR and VFR. If you don’t feel as though everything is crystal clear after having read my first few sentences, I’d recommend going back to the early CAT ratings and ensuring you grasped all of the concepts entirely.
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Re: Entering a pattern

Postby Keith Smith » Fri Jan 04, 2019 7:46 am

Mike,

Being able to enter the pattern as instructed is absolutely critical for standard operations, so it's good that you're taking this seriously. It's not a bad idea to visualize your arrival before the controller even tells you how to enter the pattern. If you're arriving from the west (ie, heading east), then you can pretty much visualize that you're either going to get a straight in for rwy 8, or a right base for rwy 15. Those two options involve the least amount of maneuvering. Anticipating the most LIKELY entries makes it easier to process the instruction when it's given by the controller.

Let's say there's a sequencing issue and they need to delay your arrival, then you might hear, "cross overhead midfield and enter LEFT downwind rwy 15." Once you cross overhead, that will put you on the east side of the airport, so if the rwy assignment is still rwy 15, then it's very logical that it would be left traffic (ie, left turns in the pattern) from that point.

I'd suggest drawing a runway, with left and right traffic depicted, and label each leg of the pattern (upwind, left xwind, left downwind, left base, final. Right xwind, right downwind, right base). Now, picture the plane arriving from any of the 8 cardinal directions (N, NE, E, SE, S, SW, W, NW) and picture the most LIKELY way to enter the pattern, and then some unexpected ways (for sequencing).

We already covered one unexpected way (crossing overhead and entering downwind for left traffic for the scenario you described). Here are two more:
1) "enter right downwind runway 15"
2) "enter left crosswind runway 15"

The first one might require you to maneuver to the south a little bit (ie, a right turn) assuming you were pretty much pointing towards a clean right base entry from a few miles out prior to that. A controller might do this to delay your sequence if they have an arrival for rwy 15 that will be arriving before you.

The second one achieves the same thing (delaying your arrival for runway 15), but to an even greater degree.

This is a topic that is worth your time. I wouldn't focus on much else until you have completely nailed this. It's a skill you're going to put to use on virtually every single flight that leaves the pattern.
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