The following is an excerpt from The Skyway Code (page 99)

1 Downwind join involves directly joining the circuit parallel to the runway in the downwind direction. It is important to observe the direction of the crosswind leg, since that is where potentially conflicting circuit traffic will come from. If in doubt about cutting in front of another aircraft, slow down and/or manoeuvre to fit in behind. There may also be aircraft already on the downwind leg that are directly ahead of you and therefore difficult to see. The danger is that you join closer in to the runway and then turn base inside them or that you simply start to catch up without realising they are there.

2 Crosswind (midfield) join involves joining at circuit height from the dead side, at 90º to the runway, then turning downwind to join the circuit direction. It is essentially the ‘second half’ of an overhead join but lacks the opportunity to observe the traffic pattern from above. Watch out for traffic already established on the downwind leg and fast climbing traffic from below.

3 Base leg join involves joining directly to the base leg of the circuit. Watch the downwind leg carefully and ensure that you have not joined on the inside of any traffic that is already on the base leg.

4 Straight in approaches are not recommended because they do not give much opportunity to observe potentially conflicting circuit traffic.

The most common and recommended type of join is the ‘overhead’, the advantage of which is that it allows you to observe the traffic circuit below without being in conflict with it. When turning downwind, watch for any traffic already on the downwind leg.

Overhead joins are sometimes precluded or varied by airspace or traffic constraints. You must check the local procedures for the aerodrome you are visiting.

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