Proficiency in the Pattern

Pilots who've been flying for many years or decades rarely spend much of their time in the air practicing takeoffs and landings. By simply making a half dozen or so trips around the pattern in between planning those trips to distant airports we can knock off the rust the best way possible.

Think about it: Takeoffs and landings involve just about every phase of flight there is: taxi, takeoff, climb, turns, level off, straight and level while maintaining altitude and track, descent and, finally, flare and landing. And it happens all in the span of five minutes, with lots of that time spent talking on the radio and performing quick finger work with configuration, reconfiguration and checklists.

If you mix it up during this sort of practice by performing a couple of full-stop landings, a couple of touch-and-goes and even a missed approach or two, you've covered a lot of aeronautical ground in a short span of time. An hour spent in the pattern can be worth dozens at cruise altitude with the autopilot engaged.

The best part of practicing takeoffs and landings, apart from the skill-building it promotes, is that it's a ton of fun as well. At the end of an hour in the pattern you might be asking yourself why you didn't do this sooner.

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