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Traffic Pattern Entry at Non-Towered Airports

Source:, Featuring Bob Martens

Subscriber Question:

"Please share the details of what is legal (and what's best) for pattern entry at a non-towered airport. We hear people crossing midfield to the downwind. We hear entries on the upwind, crosswind, base, long finals, and so on. Again, what is legal and what's best. Thanks." - Marty B.


"The Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) gives us the standard traffic pattern. It starts with a 45 degree angle entry to the midfield downwind. And it works!

traffic pattern at non-towerd airport

And while the AIM is not regulatory, I know for a fact that NTSB law judges consider it published guidance that should not be ignored.

Unfortunately, many pilots have their own approach to flying traffic patterns. It's a big problem and causes many safety issues.

Wide downwinds, long finals, and non-standard entries contribute to confusion, frustration and sometimes anger.

I'm a strong believer in flying the standard traffic pattern entry. If we rationalize some other method we are only contributing to confusion in the pattern. If we all fly the standard pattern published in the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM), we all know what to expect from each other. That works!"

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