Straight in approach at uncontrolled airport?

In reality in the real world the straight in would be harder to judge. Patterns involve a known positioning and perspective relative to the threshold that pilots learn, so controlling descent and speed by visual reference is easier in a pattern.

Its far easier to fly visually in a real light aircraft than it is in IF, which is why most users fly big jets with IFR flight plans!


Because in IF your head is “down on the map” more to judge position, relative to the out-the-window visual cue reliance irl?

Yes thats right. Often in IF the only way we can gain an accurate fix on our position relative to the airfield, or be sure we’re on the correct heading for each pattern leg, is by referring to the mini map.

Purely visual flying is possible in IF, but in my experience I can say its easier to scan all around and see your position relative to the runway in a real airplane.

There are definitely some experiences of flight naturally more suited to irl vs in sim. But I can still be training my muscle memory for the course reversals to downwind entry for best practice irl, even if other pilots choose to make straight in approaches to uncontrolled fields. And I think it is still helpful to have other live pilots who are at least “incentivized” to maintain some kind of traffic separation. There might always be a gap for transition to irl, but IF is a remarkably flexible learning curve booster for irl, at least in my experience. If I can just pay attention to the correct procedure.

For sure you can get a lot of valuable familiarization and practice procedures in the sim. I’d argue that probably instrument procedures are easier to work on than visual ones in IF.

But if you focus on your goals theres useful learning time to be spent. I just wouldn’t worry too much about what the other players might be doing around you.

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Yes, from my understanding the pattern can be as big as it needs to be. There’s no hard rule about the size in the FAA AIM (from the research I did) or Infinite Flight User Guide.

Infinite Flight uses the FAA regulations when it pertains to ATC, rather then other countries who will have other rules or guidance.


I completely agree.

Thank you so much for your research. It’s definitely good to have this extra confirmation. My feeling is that the standard diagrams one finds around the various sources, could do with a bit more clarification when illustrating this point to help learners. But then the world seems to function anyway. So I maybe I’m just being presumptuous.

As far as best practice for a safe downwind entry point to the traffic pattern from ANY direction, I haven’t found anything as obsessively explicit in detail as the following video. It talks about setting up a target point (again, incoming from any direction), removed from the airport, to get the 45 degree entry correct:

Check out this FAA document.

For non-towered, I personally prefer A usually.


Thanks for the document link. I have been referring to that, but re-read it more carefully after you linked it.

A couple questions:
1)So if approaching inbound roughly parallel to the runway in use, you would use your preferred method A after presumably turning right somewhat as @mcgregni mentioned to be able to cross the runway at the right angle as shown in the diagram?
2)If you are in a faster, heavier aircraft (737 etc.) landing at the uncontrolled field with the pattern quite full with light aircraft, you would use the same pattern procedure (with the altitude adjustment for turbine aircraft), and ideally not make a straight in? In other words the rules would be that the larger aircraft doesn’t have right of way or any etiquette preference, and you would transition your IFR to VFR according to the current pattern conditions?

Well, a 737 coming in to a pattern, mixing with light aircraft when theres no ATC is rather unrealistic.

In the simulator we generally pretend that we are remaining IFR, even with unicom, and continue in following approach procedures and ILS intercepts. The pattern announcments on unicom by that 737 pilot are just best approximations, and don’t relate to real world exchanges that would occur with ATC.

I was wondering about some locations such as Gunnison Colorado. I think the airport has no control tower. But if I try to book a flight there, it shows Skywest flies in with a CRJ700. I also read there are a number of airports in northern Canada with commercial flights but without control towers. So I was partly wondering how they handle that?

It’s not common but it is a thing that can occur IRL.

A lot of airports that share light and jet traffic will have published entirely seperate procedures for both. Often this involves visual reference points and sometimes differently shaped circuits, which avoids conflicts and allows for the different speeds.

If you want to simulate this in IF, then you could fly a standard pattern in a jet, but at 1500ft agl and a wider pattern shape. Traffic avoidance is up to the pilots when on unicom, so it may be a bit hit and miss …hopefully not a direct hit!

That’s great info thanks. It has examples in Brazil, Canada, Finland etc. with commercial operations at uncontrolled airfields.

This is the rough idea I had for a diagram to discuss with learners to potentially make the entry leg issues clearer. Actually I should have A next to the reverse turn. Then you have the FAA’s document that shows A and B options, but they don’t have the explicit arrows at the top for incoming course illustration. And because the FAA document leaves out how to get to the entry leg, they don’t show a C scenario as distinct from A and B.

I can touch on the Northern Canada part a bit! A lot of the airports you are referring to will indeed have commercial traffic flying in, but not usually busy enough to cause any conflicts, except the odd occasion. Some may only have an arrival every couple of hours.

The busier airports will tend to have a Flight Service Specialist (FSS) who provides advisory information to VFR and IFR aircraft to allow for separation and avoid circuit conflicts. Typically in the form of extending downwind, upwind, etc. However, this is only an advisory service, and therefore still uncontrolled.

For areas that are very busy, even in Northern Canada you will get a control tower. On the contrary, for those airports that have neither an ATC or FSS, it all comes down to good airmanship. VFR established in the pattern have right of way over IFR traffic on an approach in VFR weather (in IFR weather, there should hopefully be no VFR traffic). However, good airmanship, would have a small C172 doing circuits, extend a downwind slightly to accommodate a CRJ or Q400 landing straight in, even if the C172 technically has the right of way!


It’s very useful to hear your first hand experience of how it works in Northern Canada - nothing like the shift from hypothetical to real life!

When you’re talking about a commercial arrival with the frequency of an hour or more, it sounds more like an event than traffic. So one can imagine the in-practice procedures adapting according to that local condition.

It’s also interesting the VFR traffic have, in principal, right of way over IFR on approach in VFR weather.

When the C172 yields to the CRJ arriving straight in, does that get communicated or is it just understood by both to be the local convention?

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Exactly! It’s a very fluid environment, constantly changing and you have to adapt as needed. For when yielding to traffic, it’s communicated over the radio as everyone should be on the same frequency at that point. You figure out who is closer and accommodate as needed. In the same sense it’s considered common airmanship locally and abroad, and something you pick up as you progress through your licences and flying career!

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