Unable Pattern Work

What are the reasons that an ATC can deny a traffic pattern except when the airport is busy?
Can they use it at their own discretion?

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It is really up to the controller. If on TS the controller is not really bound to IFATC rules. If the controller sees a FPL made by you they have perfect reason to deny you pattern traffic.


Low visibility is one of the reasons other then high traffic. If visibility is down to 3sm or below and/or the cloud ceiling is below 2000ft then pattern work will be denied. Pattern work in general is at the controllers descretion.


@Trio hit the nail on the head with his info. Personally I keep “no pattern work” off the ATIS unless bad conditions as mentioned above and then allow it unless it gets too busy to have in the airspace, especially smaller airports


Ok thank you.
Other question, if I’m ATC is there any rule that would restrict me from giving pattern work?

Not too sure what you mean. As mentioned above, pattern work is by discretion of controller.

If aircraft request it, it’d be nice to give it to them, however as mentioned above, if visibility is low, or they have a flight plan filed (usually an indication that the pilot doesn’t know what pattern work is) you can deny them pattern work.

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It has to be VMC. If the weather conditions are IMC, you should deny VFR patternwork

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So strong winds and bad visibility for example, pattern work should be denied? I presume these informations can be consulted on the METAR?

Yes @CptJimmy The informations about the winds and visibility can be found on the METAR section

Strong winds aren’t a factor.

Credit: Infinite Flight Youtube Channel

Broken and overcast are the two sky conditions you want to keep an eye out for, if it is Broken or Overcast at or below 2000ft, then you deny pattern work. Now if one or both conditions are met (low visibility or low cloud cover) then there is no pattern work allowed.

  • IMC (Instrument Meteorological Conditions) = no pattern work.

  • VMC (Visual Meteorological Conditions) = pattern work is allowed.

An example of a low visibility metar would be at KISP, right now.

KISP 041256Z 36011G19KT 1 1/2SM R06/6000VP6000FT -RA BR BKN006 BKN012 OVC027 11/11 A2980 RMK AO2 SFC VIS 3 SLP091 P0002 T01110106

I have highligted the portion that realtes to the visibility and cloud cover.

  • 1 1/2sm means that visibility is 1.5sm, which is below 3sm, it’s IMC so there will be no pattern work.

  • BKN006 BKN012 OVC027 means that the clouds are Broken at 600ft, Broken at 1200ft and Overcast at 2700ft. It’s broken at 600ft, IMC, so no pattern work.

Another example is from 4hrs ago at KISP.

KISP 040945Z AUTO 05007KT 4SM RA BR SCT006 OVC012 11/11 A2980 RMK AO2 P0008 T01110111

  • Now visibility is at 4sm, which is above 3sm so you can allow pattern work as you think it is VMC.

  • As you can see though it is overcast at 1200ft, which is below 2000ft so it cancels out the fact that the visibility is above 3sm. No pattern work allowed, it’s actually IMC.

The same thing can be flipped, the cloud ceiling could be above 2000ft and you’re fine, but if the visibility is below 3sm then you can’t allow pattern work.

Hope that helps!


That answers all my questions, thank you for your clear answer. I appreciate!

You’re welcome! While you’re learning to read the METARs it doesn’t hurt to check windy.com, they have a raw text version and a non-raw text version. You just search for the airport and it comes up. It’s pretty handy.

Example from 11mins ago when it was updated:

KISP 042356Z 04005KT 10SM FEW028 FEW065 16/12 A2971 RMK AO2 SLP061 T01610122 10194 20156 53004

Wind 040° 5kt. Visibility 10sm. Clouds few 2800ft, few 6500ft. Temperature 16°C, dew point 12°C. Altimeter 29.71inHg. ASOS station.
Remark: AO2 SLP061 T01610122 10194 20156 53004

Oh I didn’t see they had that option, I’m actually using this site to check out which regions have strong winds so I can do TNG Hahah.

Then badbadweather.com is for you.

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pattern saturation is a common one.

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