When is an Aircraft in a pattern?

If a airplane is approaching the airport perfectly as if the plane was flying on the right downwing. Is the plane now automatic in the pattern? or is it first when Tower says: “enter right downwind” the plane official is in the pattern?

The aircraft is ‘in the pattern’ once it is physically positioned in one of the legs of the pattern.

Just receiving the instruction from the tower does not mean the aircraft is now ‘in the pattern’

For example if you are 15 miles away, heading straight towards a right downwind, and tower instructs you to enter the right downwind, you are not in the pattern yet (as the instruction states, 'ENTER right downwind). Once you are in physically adjacent to the runway, in the tower airspace, then you are on the right downwind.

For example, Real world instructions (mostly GA - commercial approaches at large airports are vectored by approach and only handed to tower on final) from tower usually would State something like ‘report a 2 mile right base, runway 27’… the aircraft would continue its path, then enter a 2 mile right base (at which point they are now in the pattern) and report to the tower that they are ‘on a 2 mile right base, runway 27’… At that point tower would generally give them a sequence (if there is aircraft on final) or clear the aircraft to land


Thanks :-)
Is there a ecsact distance from the runway the downwind leg is on?
Ex. is a aircraft there flying 10nm from the rwy, on the downwindleg in the pattern?

I typically do about 3-4NM, within the first blue ring. [quote=“Panduro, post:3, topic:85429”]
is a aircraft there flying 10nm from the rwy, on the downwindleg in the pattern?

It is, I doubt many would mistake it as the aircraft is flying out of one’s airspace.

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This video by Mark may help, @Panduro


So. There is no distance limit from the runway when flying on the downwind?

Theoretically, no limit.

The distance from the runway depends solely on aircraft characteristics.

A Cessna and an airbus 340 should not be expected to make the same downwind/traffic pattern.

And as ATC we expect the pilot to do just that.

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Also something to remember, IRL aircraft will remain within gliding distance to the runway.

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If you are interested in flying by the book, then you should be flying your downwind 1/2 to 1nm abeam at pattern altitude. Even the larger planes don’t stray too far away from the runway in real life.

Typically you are suppose to announce inbound when you are 10nm out, but you should be monitoring the frequency until that point for situational awareness.

Here is a quick read (w/pics) from a credible source that should answer your original question as well as help you avoid conflicts:

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