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Joining the visual circuit in your country

In the US, there is no official method required to join the pattern at an untowered field. The only specific requirement is that all turns in the pattern must be to the left, unless the traffic pattern is designated as a RH pattern. The regulation that specifies this is 91.126. There is plenty of advisory guidance in the AIM and in AC 90-66A, but it is not regulatory. Here is a quote of the regulation:

Sec. 91.126

Operating on or in the vicinity of an airport in Class G airspace.

(a) General. Unless otherwise authorized or required, each person operating an aircraft on or in the vicinity of an airport in a Class G airspace area must comply with the requirements of this section.
(b) Direction of turns. When approaching to land at an airport without an operating control tower in Class G airspace—
(1) Each pilot of an airplane must make all turns of that airplane to the left unless the airport displays approved light signals or visual markings indicating that turns should be made to the right, in which case the pilot must make all turns to the right; and
(2) Each pilot of a helicopter or a powered parachute must avoid the flow of fixed-wing aircraft.

If I understand other posts I have read on EuroGA, we are different in that we conduct IFR operations at airports without an airport controller, in fact most airports are of this nature. It is incumbent on IFR traffic to play nicely with VFR traffic when conditions permit VFR operations. It is very common for straight in approaches on an IFR clearance to mix with VFR traffic in the pattern. Before an IFR aircraft reaches its final approach fix, they are notified by ATC they may switch frequency to the local CTAF frequency that all radio equipped aircraft should be using in the pattern. Of course, all aircraft are not required to have a radio or transponder, so one must use the Mark One eyeball for traffic avoidance in the pattern. In class G airspace, the minimum VFR requirements are just 1 SM visibility and clear of clouds. Fortunately, very few aircraft fly in these minimum conditions. There are some non towered airports that have Class E to the surface and they have higher VFR weather standards which require 3 SM visibility, at least a 1000 foot ceiling, cloud separation of 500 feet below, 1000 feet above and 2000 feet lateraly. I teach IFR pilots to not report position inbound using IFR terminology such as “Bonanza 1234 Rally inbound on the VOR-DME RWY 2 approach”, but rather to use VFR terminology, “Bonanza 1234 is on a 5 mile final, straight-in to runway 2”.

KUZA, United States

Czech AIP only states one should announce the intended place of entry into the circuit. From my observations, the popularity of different methods is: base turn > downwind turn > mid-downwind leg > straight-in. Straight-in landing is not actively discouraged.

The biggest GA event in Europe, Tannkosh, Germany, does not specify the joining method, but the arrival procedure makes it most convenient to join mid-downwind.

LKBU (near Prague), Czech Republic

QuoteThe biggest GA event in Europe, Tannkosh, Germany, does not specify the joining method, but the arrival procedure makes it most convenient to join mid-downwind.

Which is the usual way for joining in Germany anyway. If nothing special is specified on the approach plate. Whether you join at 90 degrees or 45 (which is the way we teach it for the “CPL pattern”) is up to you.

EDDS - Stuttgart


See ENR 1.1 – 75

Last Edited by ANTEK at 09 Nov 20:31

48.5.4 When arriving on the live side, the recommended method is to ar- rive at the circuit altitude entering midfield at approximately 45 de- grees to the downwind leg while giving way to the aircraft already established in the circuit.
Copyright © Airservices Australia 2013

Australia has been slowly moving away from post-war RAF legacy procedures to align more with US procedures….although it has been a painfully slow process….

Last Edited by AnthonyQ at 09 Nov 20:58
EGPD / OMDW / YPJT, United Kingdom

we are different in that we conduct IFR operations at airports without an airport controller, in fact most airports are of this nature

Curiously the UK can do that too and use the same method as the USA (a remotely located IFR controller who clears you for the approach) but the problem in the UK is that nobody is willing/able to fund the cost of the IFR controller Hence only one UK airport uses this method – Walney Island.

But that’s digressing…

BTW could all posters please review Posting Tips which changed with the software upgrade a few days ago. The way links and text quoting is done has changed, etc.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

In switzerland the circuit is usually joined in the middle of the downwind.

I’ve been trying to find any regulation for this but there doesn’t seem to be much. Both the AIP as well as the VFR Guide are silent on traffic patterns.

748.121.11 Verordnung des UVEK über die Verkehrsregeln für Luftfahrzeuge paragraph 22, which essentially states that you should integrate yourself into the aerodrome traffic by watching other traffic, light and ground signals, and observe clearances or other hints received over the radio. And that you should execute the last turn before landing and the first turn after departure to the left unless published otherwise in the AIP or other “reasonable” way or cleared otherwise by ATC.

Now since EASA the fun is to know which national laws are still applicable and which ones have been superseded by EASA rules, it’s a complete mess.

LSZK, Switzerland

A big thank you to everyone, I have integrated all this information into my report back.

EGKB Biggin Hill

Too late for Timothy’s report, but I can supplement that there is no regulation about this in Denmark either, other that the standard left turns. However, most schools (including mine) teach the standard overhead join, having stolen the linked-to UK illustration on how to do it. I think it works ok if performed properly, but I sometimes see pilots descend to pattern altitude after having joined downwind, which in a Piper with a Cessna below could be a rather bad thing. On the other hand, flying straight in without announcing on the radio is also observed regularly. Neither is clever; apart from that I have no basis for strong opinions about the best method.

EKRK, Denmark

Thank you, I will add that in.

EGKB Biggin Hill
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