View Full Version : ATC instructions
09-07-2005, 11:25 PM
I've done a fair amount of searching, but haven't found what I am sure is a simple answer to a simple question.
When I get the instruction to "enter left downwind", "enter right downwind", "enter left traffic", etc. from ATC what does that mean?
(It's OK to call me stupid, I don't mind.)
09-08-2005, 12:30 AM
Traffic pattern entry procedures:
photo credit: http://stoenworks.com
Basically, it is a follow the leader way for airplanes to land at airports without (and sometimes) with an air traffic control tower. It is a nice standard procedure that all pilots know (or should lol) In the above graphic, these are all left-hand turns made my the pilot, thus we get the term, "left-traffic" or left pattern.
09-08-2005, 12:30 AM
Nothing stupid about this question, just a lack of knowledge, which we all shared at one time or another.
In the context you mention above, left or right means the direction your aircraft must turn to get to the runway, so a left downwind means that you are, when on the downwind leg, looking out the left side of the aircraft at the airport, parallel to the runway, and must make a left turn to base and a left turn to final.
Left traffic, again, means you'll be making left turns in the traffic pattern.
For designation purposes (and for normal landings, as well), it is assumed that the wind is roughly flowing into the direction of landing, such that the aircraft will have a headwind on final approach and landing. All legs of the pattern are designated accordingly. So downwind is a parallel leg in the downwind direction, or opposite to the direction of intended landing. Base leg leads from downwind to the final approach, and is across the wind. Final approach is lined up with the runway and (obviously) into the wind. This makes a square traffic pattern.
UPDATE: Looks as if Ryan beat me to the punch, with a nice diagram to boot. Left traffic is shown in the diagram. Right traffic would be the mirror image, with all turns to the right.
09-08-2005, 01:50 AM
Thanks, guys. I thought it was something like that but just wasn't sure. I'm glad I asked, though, cause now I have my very own diagram to crash with! :-) :-)
09-08-2005, 10:15 AM
don't forget the diagram is showing your GROUND track and not your air track. you may need to turn into the wind to maintain your distance from the runway.
09-08-2005, 05:50 PM
Yeah I didn't know that either =p Thanks for asking that...:-) And thanks to all of you that explained it as well :D Also...Sometimes I ask the tower to land and they say to enter right downwind or whatever it is...And then I'm on final but they haven't authorized me to land yet so I have to go around...Is that a game error?
09-08-2005, 10:38 PM
>Yeah I didn't know that either =p Thanks for asking
>that...:-) And thanks to all of you that explained it as well
>:D Also...Sometimes I ask the tower to land and they say to
>enter right downwind or whatever it is...And then I'm on final
>but they haven't authorized me to land yet so I have to go
>around...Is that a game error?
i think you have to REPORT to them on entering the downwind leg and they will then issue further instructions. this is a towered airport correct? if it is a busy airport keep in mind they usually do not issue downwind instructions but rather vector you to final for either a visual or an ils approach.
one other thing, if you are flying a turbine powered aircraft the pattern altitude is not 1000' agl but typically 1500' agl.
flight sim was always hard to fly a pattern due to the constant "visual" nature required.
09-11-2005, 11:20 AM
If you're told to go around there's usually a reason. Probably someone else (AI) has been cleared but hasn't landed yet, or is still on the runway. Flightsim sometimes gives clearance to land when the aircraft are in bizarre positions, sometimes I'm 10-15 minutes away from being able to land and I'll be cleared.
09-11-2005, 05:18 PM
download AIsmooth, it will fix that.
09-14-2005, 10:11 AM
>In the context you mention above, left or right means the
>direction your aircraft must turn to get to the runway, so a
>left downwind means that you are, when on the downwind leg,
>looking out the left side of the aircraft at the airport,
>parallel to the runway, and must make a left turn to base and
>a left turn to final.
>Left traffic, again, means you'll be making left turns in the
I would like to add that in most parts of Europe ATC won't use the phrase "LEFT". They either instruct you i.e. to "Enter Downwind" or to "Enter Right Downwind". Anything without the phrase "Right" automatically has to be interpreted/executed as "Left...".
09-14-2005, 11:53 AM
Hummm, I don't think I like that. Such things should be explicit and spelled out for the pilot. It is too easy to have the word "right" dropped because of bad radio transmission. I could see two planes going head on.
09-14-2005, 12:49 PM
You report to ATC when asked to do so. So if they say, "Enter and report midfield left downwind for runway 29L" then you must report when you are midfield downwind. But if they say, "Enter left downwind for runway 29L" then the report is not required or expected -- perhaps he already has you in sight. At least this is true in the U.S. -- can't say about other countries.
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