Letters

Dogfight: Pattern Entry

March 1, 2011

The disagreeing articles on pattern entries ( “Dogfight: Pattern Entry,” January 2011 AOPA Pilot) prompted me to comment. I agree with Dave Hirschman in principle (less time in the air and less radio chatter is good), but I have to disagree that “The Bonanza pilot’s pattern entry procedure is time-honored, FAA approved.” I have yet to see any approval for anything other than the 45-degree entry to the downwind. While the FAA has not explicitly disapproved other pattern entries, its guidance is that “Entry to the downwind leg should be at a 45-degree angle abeam the midpoint of the runway.” Silence from the FAA in regard to other pattern entries does not constitute approval. It’s true that nonstandard examples save time in the air and eliminate much radio chatter, but it has to be balanced against the possibility of surprising other traffic by entering in a non-standard manner.

Tom Horne advocates a strict adherence to the FAA guidance. Doing pattern entries always the same way lets everyone know where to look for you—no surprises. However, when the pattern is empty, it is an unnecessary waste of time, especially if you are approaching the airport from the side opposite the pattern. Both arguments would disappear if the FAA would revise its guidance to allow for a pattern entry from the side opposite the pattern. I think that the crosswind pattern entry is safe, except that it is not standard and therefore has the possibility of surprise. Thank you both for the thought-provoking article.

Hank Eilts, AOPA 1097294
Plano, Texas

I agree with Dave Hirschman. I fly a midfield entry at every nontowered airport I go into after an old timer showed me years ago. I fly a J–3 Cub and often fly to several busy local nontowered airports. I cross over midfield and enter a downwind, calling on the radio if I happen to have one that day. I can see other traffic better, they can see me, and I just like it especially because of the bad techniques of the other landing pilots.

Tim Loehrke, AOPA 1715877
Herndon, Virginia


Mr. Hirschman, I’m sorry, but you are dead wrong! The midfield pattern entry as you espouse is just plain dangerous, and only someone who doesn’t understand proper pattern procedure would even begin to contemplate such a maneuver. What you are doing with a 90-degree overhead entry is barging into the traffic pattern from inside the pattern, not entering it, and because you are entering the pattern from inside the pattern, you are forcing everyone else to give way to you. A pilot on a normal, 45-degree entry onto midfield, downwind, is damned close to head-on to you. You actually want to put yourself, and everyone else in the pattern, in that kind of position?

Lee Taylor, AOPA 367412
Diamondhead, Mississippi

As to Tom Horne’s assertion that “It’s all about telling everyone where you are,” well, yes. But what does that have to do, directly, with the type of pattern one flies? And it sounds as though he maybe thinks that everyone else out there has a radio. Well, no, Tom, maybe they don’t. (I, myself, will no longer fly a nonradio-equipped aircraft, but I would defend to the death the right to do so!)

Stanley E. McGrew, AOPA 0593576
Morgan, Utah

Finally! Dave Hirschman should be crowned the “Prince of Common Sense” for finally putting something in writing in a national publication that promotes safe pattern entry from the cold side. The key to any pattern entry is to do what others expect. The problem with “what others expect” is there is no definitive, FAA-sanctioned instructions for entering the pattern from the cold side and, after 2,500 hours and 14 years of flying, I have yet to find consensus among instructors. Tom Horne is half right and has a valid point about flying what everybody expects; unfortunately there is little agreement for a “cold” side approach.

Ron Hays, AOPA 1313373
Santa Barbara, California

OK, guys, your dogfight on pattern entries was just about anything but enlightening. I’ve been a member of AOPA and active reader of this magazine for almost 10 years and this article rates as one of the worst ones I’ve ever seen on these pages.

I look to your magazine as the pinnacle of information in the GA flying industry. It should be professional, well thought out, and provocative. This was none of those for me. There are plenty of times when a nonstandard pattern entry will work just fine, but I find it hard to believe that you think it is acceptable to advocate to your pilot audience, especially those just learning the ropes, that it’s OK, even “FAA-approved” to enter a busy airport traffic pattern at midfield.

Tom Horne was a little too minimalist for me, but I agree with him. Dave Hirschman is a little too complacent for my tastes. I don’t think this article was in the best interests of your readers. There are no old, bold pilots.

Randy McLain, AOPA 3959026
Laclede, Idaho

Time to buy

Thomas B. Haines’ article “Waypoints: Time to Buy” ( January 2011 AOPA Pilot). affirmed my feelings since I bought my first airplane in July. I bought a 1977 Grumman Lynx with all of the speed mods for the price of a new car, and cheaper than most trucks. With two kids in college, I struggled with the financial aspect of ownership; however, the joy of opening the hangar and seeing that beautiful little Lynx waiting for me to throttle up is like no other feeling I know. From doing the maintenance to flying to breakfast, owning an airplane is a true joy in my life. I agree with Haines, “You only get to do this once.”

Tony Jimenez, AOPA 5132018
Moon Township, Pennsylvania

I am on my second airplane and have yet to find even the slightest financial justification for either airplane. I have stopped seeking justification and just saturated myself in the sheer joy of the aircraft owner situation. Almost all of my friends own airplanes, build airplanes, or live on airport communities. Few of us are what I would consider rich—except in fun and excitement.

Dan Taylor, AOPA 5092072
Greenville, South Carolina

Anchors aweigh

Great article on the SBD Dauntless ( “100 Years of Naval Aviation: Anchors Aweigh,” January 2011 AOPA Pilot). My grandfather flew a Dauntless during part of his long career in the Navy, which spanned World War II and Korea. As a kid, I loved hearing about his time flying combat throughout the Pacific. It’s a big part of why I’m a private pilot today.

Reading about Dave Hirschman’s experience getting checked out for his solo in the SBD, I was envious. When he commented on how lucky he was to have accrued those needed 200 fighter hours, I wondered how the CAF could continue to maintain those requirements if they wanted future generations to fly these now-classic warbirds. I’m sure I’m not the only aspiring warbird pilot that hopes to help continue the flying tradition of these magnificent airplanes.

Kris Lichter, AOPA 6589917
San Diego, California

Godsend or gadget?

I read Ian J. Twombly’s article in the January 2011 AOPA Pilot about the iPad ( “Godsend or Gadget?”). His statement, “They call it assisted GPS because it’s not as good as a dedicated GPS chip” is wrong. It’s really the reverse. AGPS allows assistance from other sources to improve ranging but the assistance is not required. The AGPS architecture in the iPad is better than just a standalone GPS chip because it allows faster and better ranging and fix performance.

Rich Littlestone, AOPA 1058803
Centennial, Colorado

Ian Twombly’s assessment of the iPad was most helpful. I was an early adaptor mainly for the photography and other media apps, but I immediately discovered that the aviation apps were a big bonus and more than justified the $600 expenditure for the 32-GB version.

I would never rely on the iPad to display instrument approach plates during flight, because of the glare issues that Twombly describes. Paper plates and charts are the safest way to go. But having all those digitally downloaded plates in the iPad as a backup is reassuring. In case I needed to divert I would have easy access to airport information and approach plates at my fingertips.

The iPad with WiFi is unmatched for smoothing out the preflight planning.

William Drummond, AOPA 1403550
Oakland, California