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Demystifying pattern position calls

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When taking off, but moreso when landing, some pilots announce their position in the pattern over the radio. E.g. "Fury11 left downwind at 3000 turning to left base, active runway 08." If you are not familiar with these terms, it can be confusing knowing who is in the pattern and when it is safe for you or your flight to land. To help with this, here is a simple diagram:




Since you try to always land into the wind, flying in the opposite direction of the active runway is called the downwind leg. Even if there is a perfect 90 degree crosswind, the reverse heading of the active is still called the downwind leg. The left and right designations are the direction of the turn you are making to enter the next leg in the pattern.


So now when you hear "Fury11 left downwind at 3000 turning to left base, active runway 08," you know that Fury11 is flying a heading of 260 on the *northern* side of the runway at 3000 feet and is getting ready to turn left, to the *south*, to get set up for a base, then final approach. You can now plan how you want to enter the pattern without conflicting with Fury flight.

Edited by DarkFib3r
Mixed up the directions in the example; fixed

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Left hand pattern is a standard in aviation, unless otherwise noted, so "left" is ommitted in the calls. When used, "right" is transmitted in the call. ;)

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Cool, thanks for sharing that Slider. I didn't know you could leave the "left" out.


For our current airbase, Ramat David, the pattern is to be flown at 1600' MSL. When the wind is from the east and the active is 08, you are supposed to fly a right handed pattern. When the wind is from the west and the active is 26, you fly a left handed pattern. In the last few events, we have been taking off and landing on active 08, meaning that we should be flying right handed patterns:



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No problem. Each airport might have specific restrictions, usually noted on the charts. If there's high terrain on one side, it might say "Circuits not permitted north/south/east/west of airfield" or similar. I'll see if I can look up Ramat David.  Nothing in Jeppesen, I guess nothing in civilian charts in general. :(

Edited by Slider

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