Pilot tip - entering downwind

Entering via the downwind leg.

When the ATC instructs you as pilot to ‘enter downwind’, this can mean two things:

  1. you are already on the downwind leg - continue on this leg, towards the runway
  2. steer your aircraft in such a way that you will come in via the downwind leg.

I want to talk about point 2. The ATC asks you to do some clever steering, so you come in via the downwind leg. The reason for this approach is to make it easier for Tower to sequence aircrafts.

Real life example, at Heathrow:

This aircraft is coming in from Chennai in India, inbound for runway 27R (or is it 27L?)

The red line is drawn by me, as the flight path is not that easy to see.

’Real life’ in IF - Miami executive

Congratulations to this pilot, inbound for Miami Executive. He was instructed to enter left downwind, runway 09L:

The flight path speaks for itself.

In summary

I hope that the two above examples explain the procedure. For those in doubt, here is more:


  • Often Approach controllers would bring in traffic in via the downwind legs, to ensure good separation.
  • It may be that you have a light plan, or that you are following a real life approach, which you would bring you ‘straight-in’ or via the base leg. If you need to deviate from this, in order to follow ATC instructions, then I propose you do this.
  • In real life I found many examples of aircrafts approaching via base-leg and even straight-in. And there is nothing wrong with that, of course. This topic is for those situations where you as pilot are asked to enter via downwind.
  • This topic is a duplicate. See here.

Here’s info for those situations when the inbound runway is at the other side of the airport:


Thanks for the post Anton! This will help pilots and controllers alot!


This is very good explained!!! Love the work!

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Great post! Will help tons of people out!

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Thanks for the explanation!

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For me this is simply the most helpful post about the subject. Good job, Azee!

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Nice tutorial. Nice also to see my home town of Stanwell on the map under all the planes. :)

Smooth one. :)

Thanks for the tip.

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