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6 Answers

Upwind leg at nontowered Airports

Asked by: 3043 views Airspace

I'm a bit confused about whether or not the upwind leg is a entry point of a traffic pattern.

The Airplane Flying Handbook states: When approaching an airport for landing, the traffic pattern
should be entered at a 45° angle to the downwind
leg, headed toward a point. bla bla bla

A bit further the handbook states:

The upwind leg is a course flown parallel to the landing

runway, but in the same direction to the intended

landing direction. bla bla bla. 


Then followed by a part I understand why the use for a upwind leg:


The upwind leg is also the transitional part of the traffic

pattern when on the final approach and a go-around is initiated and climb attitude is bla bla bla.


I can't make out the two previous stated explanations.


please give advise.


Thank you


D. Schildmeijer





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6 Answers

  1. Drew on Nov 04, 2014

    Not a CFI but from my understanding…

    The upwind leg is just like the departure leg except that it is offset to the side of the extended runway centerline (on the opposite side of downwind so as to not create traffic conflict).

    If a go-around was required for traffic avoidance, the airplane may be required to sidestep to the upwind leg so as to avoid the conflicting traffic on the ground or in the air as well as to allow the pilot to keep visual contact with the traffic. Basically, it’s the “go-around leg,” if you will, for when a simple go-around climb over the runway on the departure leg is not practical.

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  2. Kris Kortokrax on Nov 07, 2014

    The upwind leg is not an entry point for the pattern. The pattern and recommended entry is shown in the AIM.

    The big problem with trying to enter the pattern using the upwind leg is that you may run into me while I am on a right downwind for the runway you intend to use while flying a left pattern. Helicopters are mandated by regulation to avoid the flow of fixed wing traffic. Since regulation requires airplanes to make left turns (unless markings show a right hand pattern), helicopters most often avoid the flow of airplane traffic by flying their pattern on the opposite side of the runway. If you are flying upwind on the non traffic pattern side of the runway and I am flying downwind on the same side, there is the potential for a collision. Neither of us would want that.

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  3. _Danny_ on Nov 07, 2014

    Ok very useful answer! Would be nice if it was described in the Airplane Flying Handbook into that section in short.

    Or at least as a warning.

    Have a good day!

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  4. Best Answer

    Gary on Nov 08, 2014

    Non-towered airspace is THE most dangerous airspace in existence. At times it can be as busy as any towered space, but even if it’s not busy, that in itself might lull us into a false sense of “I’m the only one up here.” Too bad regulations don’t say we MUST do this or that. That way everybody would be on the same page…but we’re not. We may enter upwind, downwind, crosswind, mid-field, or straight-in. Mix into that are aircraft with no radio and people who endanger us further by descending into the pattern to get down to pattern altitude. It’s true the AIM suggests the best way but it’s not regulatory and many people will take advantage of that. The very best advice I can offer is to learn how-and-when to do your position reports BEFORE entering non-towered airspace. In other words think of it as if it were just as important as towered airspace…and it is. I’ll get off my soapbox now. :>)

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  5. _Danny_ on Nov 08, 2014

    Gary thank you! I’ll keep it in mind!

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  6. Kris Kortokrax on Nov 09, 2014


    How did you make the determination that airspace at non-towered airports is the most dangerous airspace in existence? Did you look back through NTSB reports and count the number of midair collisions occurring in both types of airspace?

    The worst aviation disaster in history happened at Tenerife, an airport with a control tower.

    US Air flight 1493 landed on top of Skywest 5569 at LAX in 1991.

    A few weeks ago there was a midair collision at the Frederick, MD airport, which has a control tower.

    The regulations DO say what we must do.

    91.113(b) requires every person operating an aircraft to see and avoid other aircraft.

    91.113(g) contains right of way rules concerning landing.

    91.126(b)(1) requires airplanes to make left turns when approaching an airport to land, unless right turns are required by airport markings.
    Helicopters and powered parachutes are required to avoid the flow of fixed wing aircraft.
    This rule is incorporated by reference into 91.127, 91.129, 91.130 and 91.131.

    Are you suggesting that there be a regulation requiring airplanes to enter the pattern at a 45 degree angle to the downwind leg at midfield?

    There is no good reason to enter the pattern on the upwind leg. It is just as easy to offset from the downwind leg a mile or two outside the downwind leg as it would be to offset the same distance on the other side of the downwind leg (on the upwind leg).

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