For Crowded Pattern Work, Consider A Dose of Flaps

Al Struna

Blending a mix of aircraft into a traffic pattern can sometimes be a real trick — especially at busy non-tower airports. The key is to be considerate of the other aircraft around you and to try and blend in with them — speed being the usual issue. There are really two scenarios here — slow aircraft and fast aircraft. If you fly a slow aircraft, the key is to keep your speed up as long as practical when entering the pattern. And don't slow down too much until it is truly necessary to do so. Pilots of "fast" aircraft, and here I mean anything above the basic Cherokee/C-152, often think simply of flying a wider pattern. But the simple answer is to slow down — just prior to pattern entry.

For many faster aircraft, slowing presents two issues, one of controllability and the other of visibility over the raised nose at the high angles of attack associated with slow speeds. For this there is a truly simple answer — add a notch of flaps. For most aircraft of this type, the first increment (it's prescribed in the POH; usually 10 to 15 degrees) of flaps is usable when above the white arc on the airspeed indicator — so why not use them? Lowering a notch of flaps will do several things — lower the nose attitude to improve forward visibility, improve the controllability of the aircraft, and make it feel much more stable as well. If we do this, instead of "flying wide," we sequence better, are more visible to other traffic, and fly SAFER.

Next time — give it a try. Just think; "slow down (before the entry leg), add a notch, and blend in," for SAFETY.


Alan C. Davis, Master CFI — Emeritus/CFI AIMEI Gold Seal / FAASTeam Representative. Davis is a also board member of SAFE (Society of Aviation and Flight Educators)._


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