How far away should my downwind be from the runway?

I know it depends of different types of aircraft however if I was flying in an a320 and the
traffic is fairly busy how far away from the runway should I be. I have had a few problems where my base has been mushed in final! And also how long should my downwind be.


You don’t really need to think it terms of distance from the runway, but rather in terms of standard rate turn.

You will find an explanation there:

For a fast aircraft like the a320, you can use a 25° bank angle at most (the max allowed by the FAA for a holding pattern), which roughly corresponds to a true air speed (TAS) of 180 knots, and means you will have completed a 180° turn in one minute. The corresponding turn radius (your original question) will be approximatively 1 NM - bear in mind this is the tightest turn you can do with a fast aircraft at a TAS no greater than 180 knots.

In a nutshell: just make sure you don’t overspeed (depends on plane type), and try to apply a 3°/second rate of turn, which will then determine the radius of your turn.
One last example using the standard formulas: on a small GA plane, turning at 3°/sec with a TAS of 100 knots, you will have a bank angle of 15° and a turn radius of about half a mile.

I hope this helps!


1NM distance between runway and downwind leg

Turn base for a final 1NM before threshold.

This counts for GA. I’d increase these distances when flying jetplanes.

Pattern altitude is 1000ft above airport elevation.


When flying a jetplane, my downwind leg usually around 4 NM long from runway threshold (until I intercept the glideslope) then I turn my base leg. When there is an active ATC, downwind leg could be longer, since they have to sequence with other plane. Speed around 180-200 kts on downwind leg and altitude 1500 feet AAL.


Wow. I usually hit the pattern at around 3,000

Most of the time approach is very crowded anyway, so you have go extend downwind and once you are 10NM out you should be at about 3000ft :)

Theory and practice

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Pattern altitude for general aviation aircraft is 1,000 ft. Above the field elevation. For larger jet aircraft, traffic pattern altitude is 1,500 ft. Above field elevation. This is for US airports. Not sure how it’s done elsewhere.

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So true! [fluff]