How do I fly a pattern?

I have seen youtube vids and all but I don’t see how they calculate the right heading or when they know where is “Left base, etc”. Please help.

Hey! The below tutorial(s) can be very helpful in answering your question :)


I saw that, the guy speededd the video up so I couldn’t see it right

Hey @OfficerTwentyone,

Combined with the video above from @Transport_Hub, it’s decently hard to say “fly this exact heading” as its going to be dictated by the airport you’re flying at. There isn’t a set rule of thumb to do so, but a few things that can help guide you.

I’d suggest a parallel heading on your downwind pattern, so when the airport is left of you (left downwind) or right of you (right downwind) you’d fly the parallel heading.

How do you determine this? An easy trick is to look at the runway you are at. If there is a runway 09 and 27 (like SAN) that is the directions of the runway. If you are planning to land on RW 27 (approximately a heading of 270), that means that your pattern heading of a downwind could be matched with rw 09, or a heading of 090. The headings are not exact, but this will give you a great approximation of your flight.

base turn:
This is really up to you and how you want to fly it, if you are wanting to extend all the way to the cone of the ILS intercept, you can turn when you’re just beyond it. IFATC will try to intercept you at a 30 degree angle of the cone, so if you’re flying as SAN, heading 090 on a downwind, you’d then turn at a 90degree angle to the cone, and then into a heading to intercept the runway (I know this part is confusing to just read through, but you’ll get used to it!)


The way to figure out your patterns easily is you are making 90° turns for each leg. So if you are making left pattern you are turning 90° to the left for each pattern leg. Same goes for right pattern just with right turns. So if the RWY heading is 03° and you are doing left patterns you are turning left to 273° for your crosswind leg. Then you are turning left to 183° for your downwind leg. Then turning left to 93° for your base leg and finally turning left to 03° for your Final leg.

You want to give yourself around 1-3nm of parallel distance between your downwind leg and the runway (so 1-3nm of travel on your crosswind leg and 1-3nm on your base leg) and you want to travel your downwind leg so you have around a 3-4nm Final to the runway. For GA aircraft your pattern altitude is 1000ft AGL and for commercial aircraft your pattern altitude is 1500ft AGL.


This might help you:



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