Straight in approach at uncontrolled airport?

When approaching an uncontrolled airport in IF (which might be controlled irl, like PHX) with others in the pattern, from a direction that would make a straight in most convenient, do you go ahead and perform the straight in or approach above pattern altitude to attempt a standard pattern entry? I’m curious if there are different opinions, or most users are unanimous?


Do whatever you like. If it wasn’t appropriate, straight in wouldn’t be an option.


Personally I treat controlled airports which do not have an active IFATC controller differently from an actual uncontrolled field.

An IRL controlled, IF uncontrolled would just be the appropriate procedures depending on my type of flight. Whereas flying VFR into an actual uncontrolled field would be a pattern entry, except in the case where either terrain was a limiting factor, or there is no chance of traffic and my route of flight is aligned with the preferred runway. In that case then I’d just make straight in.

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I typically continue on the procedures, from the STAR to the Approach, vectoring myself for an intercept with the headings if required. Just make sure you follow the flow, don’t run over people, and announce your intentions pretty much.


So in the case where you’re:
1)VFR inbound aligned with the runway,
2) the field is uncontrolled, and
3) there is fair amount of traffic in the pattern,
you would consider it proper etiquette (and better piloting?) to alter your course for pattern entry?

And if so would you expect others to do the same?

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No Traffic, VFR, Aligned with runway, Uncontrolled: Yes
Traffic in the pattern, VFR, Uncontrolled, Aligned with Runway: Personally I’d plan on overflying the airport and then enter the pattern.
But yes generally if the pattern is active then I’d avoid VFR straight in approaches.


Do you think most pilots in a busy pattern (uncontrolled VFR) would see it as wrong for a cross country straight-in inbound pilot to insert themselves directly for the straight-in approach even assuming there is perhaps some gap to do so?

I guess I’m asking, 1)what do we think other pilots think, and 2)what do other pilots actually think about this. If that makes any sense?

GA VFR you should fly overhead and then enter the circuit.

If in commercial jets I’d see no issue in flying straight in as long as you announce your intentions and keep out of the way of any traffic in the circuit.

A “Flying Overhead” option on the radio would be good.

Unfortunately the reality is often at uncontrolled airports in IF there really is no pattern going on, not with the traffic or with the behaviours of many pilots.

Its common to see people announce inbound when they’re on short final, base when they’re 25 miles away, and fly in to the runway that has a 10kt tailwind.

So many pilots won’t be at all interested or even notice what you’re doing. Most people fly IFR with flightplans, and continue on their STARs and GPS approaches regardless of any VFR traffic pattern there might be. If we’re lucky they’ll call in beforehand and announce approximate traffic positions that match the shape of their flightplan.


i always disengage A/P on final

Uncontrolled in Infinite Flight? Or Real Life?

I understand not flying the pattern at a controlled field i.e. KLAX, but the discussion is about actual uncontrolled airports.

As far as my memory serves, I can’t think of a single airport that is uncontrolled that has a STAR

I noticed irl there are a number of uncontrolled airports used by commercial transport flights. Presumably they all file IFR FP’s but would go into a VFR arrival see-and-avoid mind set - a traffic pattern?

But as far as the main topic, I haven’t seen a single diagram which illustrates setting up for the 45 degree downwind entry from a cross country arrival coming in the direction of the active runway. Not even the FAA diagrams. Any diagrams limit instruction to at most the other 3 general directions: 1)from left of the runway, 2)from the right, and 3)opposite the direction of landing?

I think what the OP is talking about is airports in IF without active ATC…not their real world class. When we say uncontrolled I believe we are referring to any airport in IF operating with unicom. At least thats how I’ve interpreted it…

Yes, uncontrolled airport in IF operating with unicom. What do people think about doing a straight in only (without the pattern), when there is traffic in the pattern. In general is it right or wrong, as far as good piloting as well as etiquette?

Well, as a former real world pilot of light planes at GA airports (mostly with “Radio” frequencies in the UK, advisory info but not instructions from the operator), I would say it was the expected behaviour to join the pattern in a standard way, and fit in with other traffic.

A straight in would be inconsiderate especially if it risked cutting off anyone on base.

Some airports had printed info sheets with maps showing the expected joining points and “VRPs” (visual reporting points). It was expected that inbound pilots would follow these established behaviors and announce on the frequency.

But unfortunately real VFR procedures just are not applied or even understood by the majority in IF. So theres not much point in worrying about what others will think, because they mostly won’t notice so long as you don’t fly right in front of them!

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Your unique UK experience is new for me, and helpful. Thank you. Assuming you wanted to practice in IF, for one’s own training benefit, best piloting technique, what would be your opinion on the following:
1)uncontrolled airport with “radio”/unicom
2)heavy traffic in a left hand pattern landing runway 36
3)you are inbound cross country heading 360 degrees
4)you decide against straight in (and there is no “VRP” info)
What might be the 1 or 2 best options? (overfly with turn to 45 degree downwind entry for example; but by what path and altitude?)

The safest course would be to join the pattern on the downwind, so I think an overfly while descending would work. So turn right approaching the airport, descending to about 2500ft agl. Then a descending left turn to the middle of the runway, looking right to see traffic coming from crosswind, and then enter downwind at pattern height if its all clear.

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Sorry for the delay in responding, the days just started here!

Im with you, after 1000ft GPWS

Thank you. That seems to make sense. So it appears the shape of a reverse turn to downwind entry is flexible (a right initial turn would give you more space for the left reversal?) due to being above pattern altitude but all the while descending to pattern altitude. In other words, it is height above pattern that gives you horizontal wiggle room.

And hopefully that should be “legal” good piloting, and (ideally) good etiquette, though perhaps requiring some practice to get the turning decent rate right. Hopefully I just acknowledged what you wrote.

Any other opinions?

Obviously easier to do a straight in. But maybe not as fun!