Airfield Traffic Pattern: Why don't we use it?


So, lately I’ve been controlling Tower in SoCal, on the Training/Playground Server, and I haven’t seen a single pilot use the traffic pattern in a correct way. Why should we use this? Because it makes our airports much more organized. If every pilot used the traffic pattern, the airspace around airports would be much easier to control. With that said, I will try to explain the Airfield Traffic Pattern in the most simplest terms possible.

#The Basics

I will reference this diagram from the FAA:


This diagram depicts an airfield with two parallel runways, 19L and 19R. The wind is blowing according to the Landing Direction Indicator, which in this case, is a Wind Cone, or more informally known as a Wind Sock. IF does not have wind socks, but we do have the runways at which we are supposed to land indicated by a color system (Green: Go, Orange: Careful, Red: No).
Anyway, we start with the inbound call (ie. Los Angeles Tower, American One, […], inbound for landing). The tower will (if they are following the Airfield Pattern) sequence you into the pattern (American One, Los Angeles Tower, enter right downwind, 19R). They may add something like “Number 2”, or in real life, “behind a Cessna”. You then enter the pattern, usually at a 45 degree angle, into the downwind leg. To recap based on our diagram, you are using the bottom runway, you are landing left to right, and you are entering the downwind leg at a 45 degree angle.
Not much to be said about this leg. You are flying parallel to the runway, in the opposite direction in which you land, in other words, with the wind. If you are being controlled, the tower may “call your base”, which means they’ll tell you when to turn 90 onto your base leg (American One, I’ll call your base). They may also tell you to “extend downwind”, which, from what I understand, is to continue the downwind leg until they call your base.
##Turning Base
When the tower tells your to “turn base”, you will turn 90 degrees onto your base leg.
The base leg is the leg perpendicular to the runway, at the “landing end”. This is the final leg before final.
The final leg is the final leg before landing. The tower will clear you for landing during or slightly before this leg (ie. Base). Side note on landing: touch and go means touch and go, not stop and go. After a touch and go, continue following the traffic pattern.
##Go Around
When tower tells you to “go around”, they mean follow the pattern again, and do not land. Continue flying the pattern, onto departure and crosswind legs, and then back onto downwind, base, and final legs.
The departure leg is the leg after clearing the runway, against the wind. From the departure leg, you can depart, or go back around the pattern (hence the “remaining in the pattern” request before takeoff). Departing straight out, north, south, east, or west are the directions you can request in IF. After this leg, you can remain in the pattern by turning 90 degrees onto the crosswind leg.
The crosswind leg is the leg perpendicular to the runway, at the opposite end of the runway you land on. After this leg, you can turn 90 degrees onto the downwind leg.

#Conclusion and Notes

This is my understanding of the airfield pattern, and I am not an IRL pilot, or officially training to be one. Please comment/edit if I explained something wrong.
##Some other notes
-When flying at an uncontrolled airport (Unicom), you usually state the leg you’re flying in (American One is on right base, Runway 19R).

-The Diagram states a “No Transgression Zone”. This just means that since the two runways are parallel, the pattern does not have a left or right side, respectively. This applies to airports with parallel runways, such as KLAX or KSFO.

-The airfield traffic pattern altitude is generally 800-1000ft AGL (Above Ground Level).

-If helicopters do come, I’ll make a new tutorial for that.

-One of the things I find pilots do a lot is request
takeoff, remaining in the pattern, and proceed to depart. Remaining in a pattern means you are continuing the pattern, turning onto crosswind after takeoff, then onto downwind, etc. If you wish to depart, request departure, or state intention to depart in your request to takeoff.

-Left and right sides of the runway are the left and right sides of the runway when you take off, sounds kind of obvious, but trust me, I’ve seen it all, and done it all.

-Please correct me in the comments, if necessary, and I am sorry if this is a duplicate. Hope this helps!

Diagram, this time for a single runway:

Also, check this rather in-depth Wikipedia Page for more information:


Because TPA is 3,000 AGL and everyone know you fly patterns at 10 NM +. :)


Well ur controlling on TS1 thats why people arent obeying rules and arent listening to ATC, try controlling for IFATC, seems like u have some knowledge, u should contact a recruiter

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Your information is absolutely dynamite. The problem is TS1. A lot of those pilots don’t even know about the pattern.


I agree. I personally am on Grade 2, but I used to be on 3, but I didn’t play for a while. Nobody takes time to learn on TS1.

Some of them do, obviously we all started on TS1 and learned a few things to graduate further. I think if IF were to cost $49.99 in the app store you’d see a lot of more serious users, but it wouldn’t be good for the business side.

Great info. Take the steps to move to Expert ATC. Looks like you would be great at it. Much more realistic flying. TS1 will always have some of that going on, but that’s why it’s a training server. :)

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You would be surprised at how many expert pilots request to remain in the pattern to the ATC , but plan to depart the airspace. This is a good tutorial. I suggest you change the title to “remaining in the pattern”.

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I am so tempted to move this to #tutorials.


So am I haha

I mean this is an amazing tutorial, but there are a few tutorials already on this. But, I don’t care that much, mods can do what they want with it.


Expert uses them.

We use them. Whether they are understood is another issue.


I did see another tutorial like this, but I did not feel that it was in-depth enough. Anyway, we’ll let the Mods decide.

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