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2 Answers

Turnout Altitude

Asked by: 4495 views FAA Regulations, General Aviation, Instrument Rating, Private Pilot

The AIM says, "If remaining in the traffic pattern, commence turn to crosswind leg beyond the departure end of the runway within 300 feet of pattern altitude." When flying IFR, you turn out at 400 AGL, unless otherwise directed. So if you're leaving the pattern flying VFR, what's an appropriate (or required) turnout altitude? At busy ariports it seems ATC wants you to turn out as soon as possible. What is a safe altitude in that situation?

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2 Answers

  1. Wes Beard on Nov 24, 2012

    I wouldn’t make any turn unless directed by ATC before 400ft AGL. The 400ft rule found for IFR flights is there to meet TERPS requirements. NACO and Jepp plates provide obstacle clearance information for the departure path but will not provide that information for the sides of the airport… hence requiring the airplane to climb above 400′ AGL before turning.

    Typically, if you are staying in the pattern, you wouldn’t turn before 500′ AGL (for 800′ patterns) or 700′ (for 1000′ patterns).

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  2. Andy Neumann on Dec 02, 2012

    This is a good question. Many pilots are familiar with entering the pattern “on the 45” downwind, but many pilots are unfamiliar with leaving the pattern–they just typically turn on course as soon as possible. I believe this is contrary to the AIM.

    IMHO, you have 3 options for departing the pattern VFR at a non-towered airport:

    1. Straight out until reaching 500′ above the highest pattern altitude or 5 NM from the airport.

    2. A 45-degree turn in the direction of the traffic pattern until reaching 500′ above the highest pattern altitude or 5 NM from the airport.

    3, Climb in the pattern until reaching 500′ above the highest pattern altitude and then turn on course. Turn crosswind within 300′ of traffic pattern altitude.

    The 500′ and 5 NM targets are my own suggestions–designed to keep you from conflicting with inbound landing traffic. Of course, terrain, traffic, and obstacles could change this plan and any published rules in the A/FD will need to be followed.

    At a towered airport, you will follow the tower’s instructions–and Wes is correct, you don’t turn until at least 400′ when you are departing IFR and within 300′ feet of TPA when VFR. Here’s the exception–sometimes the tower will ask you if you can accept an “early turn.” I don’t know if this is found anywhere in the AIM or P/CG. An “early turn” is made as soon as the pilot deems it safe. This might be 100′ AGL if there are no obstacles. The “early turn” is usually used to turn slower traffic out sooner when there is faster traffic departing next.

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