Overhead Pattern Entry

Earlier today, due to a lack of Approach and the position of inbound traffic, I opted to give one aircraft an overhead pattern entry. As I watched, it occurred to me that this is something very rarely encountered by pilots in IF, so I thought I’d offer a brief synopsis.

It still won’t be common, but it is a possibility, so pilots should know how to execute it.

The scenario was with a southbound plane, north of LEBL with the 25s in use, told to enter left downwind for 25L. I’m fairly certain the pilot thought I just didn’t know my left from my right, but that wasn’t the case. I wanted to separate him from the other traffic he was next to, which I sent to 25R. Rather than have these two planes fight for airspace, I wanted to give them room to breathe, but as ATC rarely uses it, it was…rough…to say the least.

Anyway, if told to enter the downwind which requires you to cross the field, here is an image from FAA documentation on how to do it:

You should cross overhead mid-field at least 500 feet above pattern altitude (1000 AAL GA, 1500 AAL others), fly clear of pattern, descend to pattern altitude and loop around to enter at the normal angle as shown above. (Really, for our purposes, entering at a 45 degree angle without the loop isn’t the end of the world, as long as the Realism™ Police don’t catch you.) the important part is that you should cross above pattern altitude and mid-field, where you’re not interfering with other traffic, meaning don’t try to cross the end of the cone at 2500 feet while another plane intercepts; you’re just causing an incursion.

This probably won’t be used that often, but pilots should know what to do if they do encounter it. Without approach, Tower has to use the tools at its disposal to separate traffic, and this may be one of them.

(Note: You do not require transition if given pattern entry thusly. You just need to be 2000 or more feet AAL, and cross mid-field.)


I had no idea about this so thanks a lot! I’m sure many people will benefit from it.

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Ditto wasn’t aware so very useful to know thanks for taking the time to illustrate this!

This is really good as I like doing some approaches that go over the airport. Example YSSY approaching YSSY from the east doing the Marln three arrival and coming over the airport to head to 34L or 16R.

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Nice topic hope help the knowledge

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There was an FAA ruling about this a few months ago. Glad you put it out here

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I read about this in the FAA handbook!

Nice reminder, Tim! I’d actually really like to execute this type of approach. Seems like it would be fun.

I thought that was for non-towered airports only, does make sense now that I think of it since you’re VFR.

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As Trio mentioned, this sort of procedure is to be flown when circling over a non-towered airfield after looking at the signal square on the ground for knowing the landing direction, open or closed airfield, glider activity, left or right traffic circuit, etc…
I learned to overtly the signal square at 2000 AGL but my advice is check the AIP and/or NOTAM’S of the airfield in question first.

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