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How big should a traffic pattern be, anyways?

Immelman

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I was out practicing landings in the Citabria today and noticed something that really got on my nerves... but that I had slowly just come to accept as normal when flying aircraft like archers and 172s: The size of most folks' traffic patterns are pretty large these days.

Now I realize that faster aircraft will need more room, and I have no problem with that, but where I fly most traffic is of the C172/PA28/C150/AA-1 variety. I see most folks flying their downwind legs a mile from the runway, turning base another mile+ past abeam the numbers, it bothers me...you're doing between 60-80mph on final in these aircraft.. there just doesn't seem to be much reason to make things so huge. The practice increases the time spent in the pattern, puts them (and therefore me, when I have to follow) outside of power-off glide distance from the runway, and promotes pretty lazy turns (perhaps the lazy turns help make the wide patterns?).

I was taught from the school that advocated crisp turns - not more than 30 degrees bank, but no less either - at each corner, and no more time spent on base and crosswind legs than to roll out from the turn, check for traffic, and start the next one. This results in a pattern where you can bring the power back to idle on downwind and make it back to the runway without cutting things short, if you had to.

So, whats the excuse folks? Or is my method just stupid or dangerous?
 
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flyboydk

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It gets really annoying when someone in a warrior is flying a huge pattern and must be thinking they are flying a 747... I mean I'm only flying a Citation and I can easily turn base a half mile past the approach end of the runway...
 

minitour

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I like to fly (and teach) 1/4 to 1/2 mile in a 172...you can make it to any runway at any time...good stuff.

-mini
 

darkvw

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they taught me a mile on base and final at my school, it was in the gliding range of the runway for the engine out proceedures
 

cforst513

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don't listen to ANYthing a :uzi: riddle student/grad says... they got it ALL wrong. their patterns SUCK.
 

minitour

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cforst513 said:
don't listen to ANYthing a :uzi: riddle student/grad says... they got it ALL wrong. their patterns SUCK.

nah...they've just gotta configure at Vref+10 by the maker/final...it's all good.

-mini
 

gkrangers

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cforst513 said:
don't listen to ANYthing a :uzi: riddle student/grad says... they got it ALL wrong. their patterns SUCK.
Its the way they were taught, and not all of the instructors teach wide patterns. Most clearly don't want to be 3 miles from the runway at night with a student....

Yeah, it annoys me too sometimes...but I can't really take it out on the students.

The problem there is there isn't enough real world and real situation experience. Everything is so "canned".

Sometimes there is a need to fly a more unorthodox pattern...flying a faster final, or a very tight pattern due to other traffic or ATC instructions.

I think some of "them" struggle with stuff like that sometimes...someone is always holding their hand...

Did I mention I hate SLOW pattern flyers??

Lets do a 3 mile 70 knot final, yay! :mad:
 

Fly_Chick

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Immelman said:
I was taught from the school that advocated crisp turns - not more than 30 degrees bank, but no less either - at each corner, and no more time spent on base and crosswind legs than to roll out from the turn, check for traffic, and start the next one. This results in a pattern where you can bring the power back to idle on downwind and make it back to the runway without cutting things short, if you had to.

1/2 mile to 1/4 mile from runway is good.

The bank is going to depend on the winds. Do not limit yourself to a specific degree of bank. Let's say you have a right quartering headwind on the base leg, assuming right base. Your base leg take more time than what is alloted for rolling out of the turn, looking for traffic, and starting the turn to final. Remember the old rectangular course from Private days? Bank on the turns was constantly being adjusted due to winds.

You always want to be able to glide to the runway if you lose your engine once you reconfigure for landing.

I agree we cannot blame students, they are only taught what their instructor's know (and what their instructor's were taught). That is why it is so important to question anything. Even if it seems correct, question why it is being done. That is how we gain additional knowledge.

I was talking to someone yesterday with 25 years GA single engine experience. He was replacing strobes on his plane. Turns out whenever he flew he had every light on his plane turned on all the time (strobes, position lights, landing light for t/o and landing), everytime he flew. After asking him why, he said that is what he was taught. He never questioned the logic, nor the cost of constantly replacing lights.
 

Immelman

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Good point about winds & bank angles, I forgot about that! Good to know I am not alone in wanting to fly the pattern close-in.
 

MD11Drvr

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I am not saying this to be upity or arrogant but I wish I had flown a small airplane recent enough to remember the pattern dimensions. Its my own fault, I mean I'm the one that has not won the lottery and gone back to flying for fun. I am a little jealous and it really does tell me I need to go rent a 172 soon and get reaqainted with fun flying...................
 

Fly_Chick

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MD11 - may I suggest a Cub, or Airaile, or good ole C150? Add to that a 20 kt headwind on final... you will feel like you are on final for... well... forever! Yet by all means, absolutely fun!

I am waiting to win the lottery to fly the bigger planes :).
 

Illini Pilot

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downwind half way up the wing strut on a cessna, then turn base when the runway is a 45 deg. angle behind you leaves you right on a 1/2 mile base and (with appropriate wind correction on downwind and in the downwind to base turn) just about the right amount of time on base.
 

NuGuy

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gkrangers said:
Its the way they were taught, and not all of the instructors teach wide patterns. Most clearly don't want to be 3 miles from the runway at night with a student....

GK is right. There was a running arugument on the AOPA board around a year ago. Their resident expert on all things aviation proclaimed that large, 747 patterns were the correct, FAA approved way of doing things.

The few that pointed out that they were trained to make the airport in case of engine failure were shouted down. Apparently the FAA wants nice, slow, configured aircraft thousands of feet up and miles away. The argument goes that there are more accidents from people hitting the ground trying to crank and bank their way into an unstabilized pattern than people who suffer from engine failures.

Personally, I trained at an airport surrounded by water on 3 sides. The water was filthy and polluted, and was 12 feet of water on top of 36 feet of mud. If you went in the drink, you'd get sucked into the mire before anyone would find you. Everyone had a vested interest in staying dry, so tight patterns were the norm.

Even with these "tight" patterns, things were nice, safe and stablized. Heck, in a 152, you practically had time for a smoke on the base leg, and this was with a 800 TPA, and you could still make the field if you engine couged. I don't really see where a huge pattern helps any, other than to pad the Hobbes.

Yet you go out to your local field these days, and there are all the aircraft doing dirigible sized patterns (about the same speed, too). Since this is what the FAA has blessed, I don't bother trying the change peoples minds anymore.

Nu
 

banned username 1

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Thank You, Thank You, Thank You,

For having this discussion. I flew for years back east and never did I see patterns flown then, ('60s and '70s) like I see flown now. I was alway taught (and I taught) to fly a pattern that was a size that you could always make the field in case of an engine failure. Even if that engine quit at the most unopportune place within that pattern, at least be able to crash within the airport boundry if you screwed-up.

It's gotten to the point at my home airport that I'm considering going to one of the instructor meetings and pleading the case for tighter patterns. I pity the poor students who pay for two hours of dual and get about 7 or 8 takeoffs and landings. We used to get about 9 per hour "back in the day". They're doing their people a disservice.

A couple of weeks ago, I followed a pilot (don't know if he was a student or not) who was flying the flight school's 172. As he turned from crosswind to downwind about a little more than a mile abreast of the runway, I keyed the mic and said calmly, "where would you go if the engine quit right now?" There were a few seconds of hesitation on his part and he replied "who is this!" to which again, I calmly said "someone who cares about you". He said no more.

Thanks for this thread. I wish we could get some sort of reasonableness back into traffic pattern flying. Now let's talk about the other issue that hacks me off: being a radio announcer in the pattern rather than being a pilot. I even hear pilots announcing that they're repositioning to the gas pumps from the tiedown area. And how much attention from thinking about what you are doing in learning how to fly is being taken away by having to remember what to say on the radio??? And they get it wrong a lot of the time anyway!!
 

erj-145mech

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I got frustrated one day and told the guy in the 152 that if his engine died about now, he'd starve to death by the time he walked back to the airport!
 

kaj837

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Boy, this has always been my pet peeve. I spent alot of time instructing around busy, uncontrolled fields in the midwest and have actually been scared at times because we were so far from the field trying to follow some fool. I remember flying a Bonanza, following a guy in an Arrow once, he and I the only two in the pattern. He was probably 2 miles from the runway on downwind, and turned a mile and a half final. He was far enough out that I considered cutting in front of him, but didn't. I asked him on the radio why he was so far out, and he replied, "Hey, this is a high performance airplane, you know." Go figure.
 

Fury220

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Just request initial, break, and perch. Piece of cake.
 

minitour

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NuGuy said:
Even with these "tight" patterns, things were nice, safe and stablized. Heck, in a 152, you practically had time for a smoke on the base leg, and this was with a 800 TPA, and you could still make the field if you engine couged. I don't really see where a huge pattern helps any, other than to pad the Hobbes.
Nu

Yep...I don't get so flipped about getting behind someone on a 70-80kt downwind as I do on downwind following the guy on a 3 mile final who's been in the pattern for an hour with me.

Slow it down...it's fine. But keep it tight...makes everyone happy.

-mini
 

gkrangers

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minitour said:
Yep...I don't get so flipped about getting behind someone on a 70-80kt downwind as I do on downwind following the guy on a 3 mile final who's been in the pattern for an hour with me.

Slow it down...it's fine. But keep it tight...makes everyone happy.

-mini
Slow and tight is ok. Slow and wide is "I wish I had sidewinders".
 
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