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8 Answers

Is it OK to use RH pattern at LH pattern uncontrolled field?

Asked by: 3392 views Private Pilot

Is it OK to practice Right-hand pattern work at an uncontrolled airport where left-hand pattern is the default?

8 Answers

  1. Best Answer

    Sam Dawson on May 10, 2013

    No as this is in direct violation of FAR 91.126. You CAN (and pilots have been), violated for doing so.
    Even if you come off an instrument approach you are expected to make all turns to the left unless the airport/runway is depicted as right pattern.

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  2. Sam Dawson on May 10, 2013

    Here are a few that made it to the NTSB judge level. I am aware of other enforcement actions where suspensions were issued that did not get to the appeal level. In other words the pilots “took” the suspensions.



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  3. Kris Kortokrax on May 10, 2013

    Todd, you didn’t specify what kind of aircraft you are flying. 91.126 requires left turns when approaching to land if you are flying an “airplane”. If you are in a helicopter, glider, gyroplane, blimp, balloon there is no requirement to fly a left hand pattern (or right pattern if the segmented circle so indicates). I’ve had more than a few airplane pilots attempt to chastise me for making a right hand pattern in a helicopter.

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  4. Todd on May 10, 2013

    Whew! I’m glad I asked!

    I’m flying a Cessna Skycatcher.

    I’m getting current after not flying for several years. I asked the question because I thought if I fly to a controlled field, the ATC could tell me to make right traffic. I thought it would be good to practice before that happened.

    So, I suppose the conclusion is that if I want to practice right pattern, I’ll have to find an airport where it is allowed.

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  5. John D. Collins on May 10, 2013


    I agree with your analysis regarding circling after an IFR approach. There is a 2009 Murphy opinion that states that the circling must be in the direction of the pattern at an airport located in class G airspace. However, I believe this is an incorrect opinion and have asked the General Counsel to review and reverse the opinion. I took the issue to the ATPAC meeting (Air traffic Procedures Advisory Committee) and they have issued a letter to the General Counsel asking for a review. The AIM and the Instrument Flying Handbook guidance suggests circling opposite to the direction of the pattern is permitted under certain circumstances, although they indicate that the pilot should consider the direction of turns in the pattern. These documents are not regulatory, but they are intended to provide guidance on how one can comply with the regulations. Also, there are examples where circling in the pattern direction is not permitted by an approach chart, yet circling is permitted to the other direction runway. This potentially puts regulation (part 97) against regulation 91.126. In a similar situation 91.175 also is in conflict with the Murphy opinion. One final point, the attorney misquoted the text of 91.126 in the opinion.

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  6. Sam Dawson on May 10, 2013

    I also agree, but unfortunately until we get something in writing it is the law of the land. One of the cases I am aware of involved a CFI who came off an instrument approach and followed another airplane in a right pattern. The CFI was turned in by a Dudly Do Right while the airplane he followed was not. The CFI got something like a 20 day suspension.

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  7. Kris Kortokrax on May 10, 2013


    I don’t think there is really a situation where Part 97 is pitted against 91.126. In 126(a) it states “unless otherwise authorized or required”. While authorization might come from ATC, the “required” portion of that statement could be construed to include requirements stated on the approach plate.

    If the weather is 800 and 3 miles, I or someone else might be flying opposite side patterns in a helicopter at the airport where someone pops out of a cloud and decides to circle on the non pattern side of the runway. That creates the potential for us to swap paint.

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  8. John D. Collins on May 10, 2013


    I agree with you, but the Murphy opinion is absolute and doesn’t allow this. The Murphy opinion is wrong, but it is what it is until it is withdrawn or changed.

    Edit: BTW, in class G, it is VFR if the visibility is one mile and an aircraft remains clear of clouds. IFR traffic can pop out and encounter legal VFR traffic under these circumstances. Circling minimums can be as low as 300 feet above the airport and 1 mile visibility.

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