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WELCOME to the IVAO ACADEMY - English Version (Still expanding)
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Aerodrome Traffic Circuit

 
 

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Submitted by bob-atco on Wed, 15/07/2009 - 12:09

ATC

Look outside!

OBJECTIVES:

Understand how an aerodrome circuit is flown and controlled

To learn the "ups" and "downs" in visual circuits

What is an aerodrome traffic circuit?

An aerodrome traffic circuit is a special pattern. It is used by VFR traffic to fly to and away from the runway in use at an airfield. Normally this pattern has a rectangular shape. Its details are published on a Visual Approach Chart (VAC) of the aerodrome. Standard this pattern uses left hand turns. Check the local procedures for possible exceptions. Example of a left hand circuit:

The aerodrome traffic circuit begins and ends over the runway and is generally flown between 500

The aerodrome traffic circuit begins and ends over the runway and is generally flown between 500 and 1,500 feet above the airport elevation. The recommended circuit altitude for piston engine aircraft is 1000ft, for turboprops and jets 1500ft is recommended. Always check local regulations for specific circuit altitude restrictions. At controlled aerodromes (with ATC) the controllers instruct the pilots when, where and how to enter the aerodrome traffic circuit. At uncontrolled aerodromes (outside controlled airspace or at controlled aerodromes where no ATC is online (IVAO)), the VFR pilots are responsible themselves for complying with the local aerodrome traffic circuit rules and to maintain their own separation. Standard procedures are used for entering and exiting the aerodrome traffic circuit. The right-of-way rules apply both inside and outside the aerodrome traffic circuit. The speed of the aircraft determines the size of the traffic circuit. Faster aircraft fly a larger circuit than the slower ones. To stay behind slower aircraft in the circuit, faster aircraft may need to slow down or extend their downwind leg slightly.

Standard aerodrome traffic circuit

In a standard aerodrome traffic circuit all turns are made to the left. Note that non-standard circuits are used with all turns to the right. Still the basics are the same.

UPWIND

The upwind leg begins at the point where the airplane leaves the ground. It continues climbing straight ahead to gain the sufficient altitude before the 90-degree left turn is made to the crosswind leg.

CROSSWIND The crosswind leg is a flight path at a 90° angle to the takeoff direction.

CROSSWIND

The crosswind leg is a flight path at a 90° angle to the takeoff direction. After making a left turn from the upwind leg one enters the crosswind leg. This turn is made at a safe height, while the climb is continued towards the indicated or cleared circuit altitude.

CROSSWIND The crosswind leg is a flight path at a 90° angle to the takeoff direction.

DOWNWIND

The downwind leg is a flight path parallel to the landing runway in the opposite of the landing direction with the runway at the left side of the aircraft.

Pilots MUST REPORT flying "DOWNWIND" unless instructed to report elsewhere by ATC. BASE The base leg

Pilots MUST REPORT flying "DOWNWIND" unless instructed to report elsewhere by ATC.

BASE

The base leg is a flight path at a 90° angle to the landing runway direction and connects the downwind leg to the final approach leg.

Pilots MUST REPORT flying "DOWNWIND" unless instructed to report elsewhere by ATC. BASE The base leg

FINAL

The final approach leg is a flight path in the direction of landing from the base leg to the runway.

Pilots MUST REPORT flying "FINAL" unless landing clearance has already been received from ATC. Righthand aerodrome

Pilots MUST REPORT flying "FINAL" unless landing clearance has already been received from ATC.

Righthand aerodrome traffic circuit

Some situations such as terrain, noise-sensitive area's,

require all turns in the aerodrome traffic circuit to be made

... to the right. This is then called a righthandaerodrome traffic circuit. It is not unusual to find a runway served by a standard (left) pattern when used in the one direction and by a righthand pattern in the opposite direction. Thus always on the same side of the aerodrome.

Pilots MUST REPORT flying "FINAL" unless landing clearance has already been received from ATC. Righthand aerodrome

UPWIND

The upwind leg begins at the point where the airplane leaves the ground. It continues climbing straight ahead to gain the sufficient altitude as for the standard circuit, but this time the 90-degree turn is made to the right to join the righthand crosswind leg.

RIGHTHAND CROSSWIND The crosswind leg is a flight path at a 90° angle to the takeoff

RIGHTHAND CROSSWIND

The crosswind leg is a flight path at a 90° angle to the takeoff direction. After making a right turn from the upwind leg one enters the righthand crosswind leg. This turn is made at a safe height, while the climb is continued towards the indicated or cleared circuit altitude.

RIGHTHAND CROSSWIND The crosswind leg is a flight path at a 90° angle to the takeoff

The aircraft has made a 90° right turn at a safe height, continuing it's climb.

RIGHTHAND DOWNWIND

The downwind leg is a flight path parallel to the landing runway in the opposite of the landing direction with the runway at the righthand side of the aircraft.

Pilots MUST REPORT flying "RIGHTHAND DOWNWIND" unless instructed to report elsewhere by ATC. RIGHTHAND BASE The

Pilots MUST REPORT flying "RIGHTHAND DOWNWIND" unless instructed to report elsewhere by ATC.

RIGHTHAND BASE

The base leg is a flight path at a 90° angle to the landing runway direction and connects the righthand downwind leg to the final approach leg.

Pilots MUST REPORT flying "RIGHTHAND DOWNWIND" unless instructed to report elsewhere by ATC. RIGHTHAND BASE The

FINAL

The final approach leg is a flight path in the direction of landing from the base leg to the runway.

Pilots MUST REPORT flying on "FINAL" unless landing clearance has already been received from ATC. Joining

Pilots MUST REPORT flying on "FINAL" unless landing clearance has already been received from ATC.

Joining the aerodrome traffic circuit

.
.

In red, the different legs of a standard visual circuit (or pattern) around the airfield (always standard left turns, unless otherwise specified or instructed) :

  • 1 = Upwind leg, just after take-off, climb 500ft on runway heading

  • 2 = Crosswind leg, 90° left turn, continue climb to circuit height.

  • 3 = Downwind leg, 90° left turn parallel to runway, but heading opposite to runway heading, circuit height, usually at

1000 ft AGL.

  • 4 = Base leg, 90° left turn again and start of initial descent

  • 5 = Final turn, from base leg to final leg and further descent to touch down.

  • 6 = Final leg, on runway heading, to land or for touch and go.

An aircraft taking off from this airfield for a local VFR training will report standard at points 3 and 6, unless otherwise requested by ATC. A right-handed pattern can be published too (red dash-line here) and is exactly mirrored. In blue, some visual entry points into the control zone (CTR), normally the TWR area of responsibility. Usually, these points are named according to their geographical position from the airfield. Thus we have here :

NE = the north-east entry point, from where aircraft will join the (left-hand) downwind leg here. NW = the north-west entry point, from where they could join the left-hand base leg, if so allowed by ATC. Otherwise standard downwind SW = the south-west entry point, from where they could join the final leg, if so allowed by ATC. Otherwise standard downwind S = the south entry point, from where they could join the right-hand base leg, if so allowed by ATC, otherwise standard joining a right-hand downwind. SE = the south-east entry point, from where they will join the right-hand downwind (if for any reason, right-hand patterns are not available, the pilot will have to join the standard/published left-hand downwind).

Note: Since left-hand circuit is standard, the words "left hand" will normally not be used. To differentiate with the non-

standard right-hand circuit, always the words "right-hand" will be used when proceeding in a right-hand visual circuit. Note that this is an example to help you understand what a visual circuit looks like. At different airfields one may find different configurations. For more information on VFR procedures, please see the chapter about VFR flight and Flight Rules.

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