The Straight Scoop on Non-Towered Airport Departures

Check out these dos and don'ts.

We all know making left-hand turns is the proper way to fly a traffic pattern most of the time – unless, of course, you’re landing at an airport with a non-standard, right-hand pattern or flying a straight-in instrument approach procedure.

But what about departing from a non-towered airport? Can you make a straight-out departure and disregard the left-hand (or right-hand) traffic pattern rules?

The answer is, absolutely. A straight-out departure in fact, is one of the recommended ways of departing a non-towered airport. You might also make a 45-degree turn toward the crosswind leg (usually a left turn) after climbing above pattern altitude, and you can also make a turn opposite the crosswind leg (i.e. a right turn at an airport with a left-hand traffic pattern) – but make sure you perform this non-standard maneuver only after climbing at least 500 feet above pattern altitude.

Be sure also to check published instrument departure procedures for clues about obstructions or terrain at airports with which you’re unfamiliar and also take a moment to review local noise-abatement rules and notams.

Whatever your departure plan, announce your intentions on the radio over the CTAF and listen for other traffic that might be inbound to the airport. Good communication and a diligent scan for traffic, terrain and obstacles are the keys to making a safe departure every time.