Rectangular vs Rounded Traffic Patterns


Charlie Precourt wrote in EAA Sport Aviation recently about the difference in rounded traffic patterns versus conventional rectangular traffic patterns.  He reports that University of North Dakota recently paired with AOPAs Air Safety Institute to study Loss of Control incidents in traffic patterns around airports.

 In virtually all of our flight training, we were taught to make relatively square 90 deg turns from downwind to base and from base to final.  This allowed fairly good vision of the airport itself and of the approach to final in case someone was making a long straight in approach. This applied to both high wing and low wing aircraft.  The majority of the classic stall spin accidents close to the ground and at lower speeds seem to result during these turns. Mostly from overshooting the final turn from base and deepening the bank angle to try and turn out on runway centerline. Thus the classic stall spin with no room to recover.

 What is being studied as an alternative turn maneuver is to make the turn from downwind to final in one continuous shallower turn.  The problems for some aircraft with this type turn is that during part of the turn with a high wing aircraft, the airport is hidden, and with low wing aircraft, part of the turn hides any aircraft in a long straight in approach. 

The author contends that although the visibility problem does exist, it is not enough of a problem to continue using the squared pattern with it’s two 90 deg turns. 

 Now here is where Challenger aircraft have a great advantage over virtually all other aircraft.  With the pilot seating position in front of the wings leading edge, the pilot is not blinded by a low wing in a turn from downwind to final and he is not blinded from the approach path by a wing.  The Challenger pilot enjoys great visibility all the way down from downwind to touchdown on the runway and beyond. 

 I have been making this type of turn from downwind to final for years and I highly recommend it to all other Challenger pilots.  This is sometime referred to as a "carrier landing" in reference to the approach used by pilots landing on an aircraft carrier.  For the Challenger aircraft and pilot, this type approach offers only advantages with no disadvantages. 


George Hurt

Adventure Aviation