Quiz Me: Class G airport traffic patterns

May 10, 2013

Editor's Note: Here’s an edited question asked by an AOPA member who contacted AOPA’s aviation services staff through the AOPA Pilot Information Center. Test your knowledge.

Question: If I fly my airplane into a nontowered airport in Class G airspace, am I violating any regulation by not flying a traffic pattern?

Answer: The regulation that most specifically addresses this situation is FAR 91.126(b). It states, “When approaching to land at an airport without an operating control tower in Class G airspace—

“(1) Each pilot of an airplane must make all turns of that airplane to the left unless the airport displays approved light signals or visual markings indicating that turns should be made to the right, in which case the pilot must make all turns to the right; and

“(2) Each pilot of a helicopter or a powered parachute must avoid the flow of fixed-wing aircraft.”

If you’re approaching the airport from a direction that requires you to turn in order to land on the runway, then a pilot could potentially violate this regulation by turning in the wrong direction. Flying a complete traffic pattern is not necessarily required in this scenario. Pilots are expected to use their best judgment at all times. Flying a predictable traffic pattern and using good communications techniques are always encouraged.

Got a question for our aviation services staff? The AOPA Pilot Information Center is a service available to all members as part of the annual dues. Call 800/USA-AOPA (800/872-2672), or email to pilotassist@aopa.org.