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Circuit trouble

Old 1st Oct 2018, 11:55
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Circuit trouble

Recently I struggled with a standard OHJ. I'm fairly inexperienced having only qualified this year, and most my training was at a quiet airfield. I fly a C42 microlight (so fairly slow). I made a standard OHJ. At the point of me crossing the upwind end of the runway and joining crosswind, I heard another aircraft call downwind (LH circuit). I couldn't see them but they were probably to my right as I'm joining the downwind (about halfway down the downwind leg because of the OHJ). Potentially we are now on a collision course (both at circuit height). I still can't see them. So, as I can't see them, I climb 1000ft back up to Overhead join height and join again. I think I did the right thing, although its frustrating as I think they were too far out to call downwind, and definitely not following the prescribed circuit pattern.

On that last point I have also made the mistake of assuming that just because someone has called downwind / finals etc that they are also following the published circuit pattern. Joining downwind I knew there was another aircraft (PA28) ahead of me although I didn't have visual. That's because they were at least 1 mile further out that the published downwind leg. I'm following the correct downwind leg (a mile closer to the runway), and still no sight. I reach the point of turning final, and then they call final. Still no sight I then decide to climb and continue downwind into the deadside.

I suppose in both of these examples, I'm following the prescribed circuit (published in Pooleys) , and others are not, yet it's me that has to take the avoiding action. You could argue I need to get better and looking out and fitting in, but then in both cases I would not be following the published circuit.

I wondered if on both occasion this was the right thing to do? How much deviation in the published circuit is acceptable? Thoughts?!!
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Old 1st Oct 2018, 14:06
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Originally Posted by gogoflying View Post
Recently I struggled with a standard OHJ. I'm fairly inexperienced having only qualified this year, and most my training was at a quiet airfield. I fly a C42 microlight (so fairly slow). I made a standard OHJ. At the point of me crossing the upwind end of the runway and joining crosswind, I heard another aircraft call downwind (LH circuit). I couldn't see them but they were probably to my right as I'm joining the downwind (about halfway down the downwind leg because of the OHJ). Potentially we are now on a collision course (both at circuit height). I still can't see them. So, as I can't see them, I climb 1000ft back up to Overhead join height and join again. I think I did the right thing, although its frustrating as I think they were too far out to call downwind, and definitely not following the prescribed circuit pattern.

On that last point I have also made the mistake of assuming that just because someone has called downwind / finals etc that they are also following the published circuit pattern. Joining downwind I knew there was another aircraft (PA28) ahead of me although I didn't have visual. That's because they were at least 1 mile further out that the published downwind leg. I'm following the correct downwind leg (a mile closer to the runway), and still no sight. I reach the point of turning final, and then they call final. Still no sight I then decide to climb and continue downwind into the deadside.

I suppose in both of these examples, I'm following the prescribed circuit (published in Pooleys) , and others are not, yet it's me that has to take the avoiding action. You could argue I need to get better and looking out and fitting in, but then in both cases I would not be following the published circuit.

I wondered if on both occasion this was the right thing to do? How much deviation in the published circuit is acceptable? Thoughts?!!
I'd say you did exactly the right thing. It is always a problem when pilots don't make r/t calls in the wrong place.
It's also a problem when pilots fly "bomber" sized circuits. It's by no means unusual for some pilots of light aircraft to fly circuits so big that they leave the protection of the ATZ.

A colleague of mine was carrying out an instrument let down over an NDB located in the centre of an of an airfield (whilst correctly speaking to them on the radio). This was our usual bad weather route in and out of the company's landing site so it was a very well worn and accurately flown route - the NDB was the IAF). After landing he was rather taken aback to receive a very angry call from a flying instructor who claimed that my colleague conflicted with his flight path as he and his student turned based leg. It eventually became obvious the instructor was teaching circuits (or supposed to be) at a second airfield six nautical miles away! The downwind leg and base turn onto finals he had flown had been so protracted that they had entered another ATZ!

I recently overflew an ATZ having contacted ATC who told us there were no other aircraft on frequency. Shortly after ATC told us that, a previously unannounced pilot (of a Cessna 172) called "overhead" as we were very close by. We were concerned that we couldn't see him although we were at a higher altitude. As we flew over I eventually saw the second aircraft still approximately three miles away from the overhead.
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Old 1st Oct 2018, 14:10
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Originally Posted by gogoflying View Post

I wondered if on both occasion this was the right thing to do? How much deviation in the published circuit is acceptable? Thoughts?!!
You need to learn the difference between a PA28 and a 737 disguised as one.
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Old 1st Oct 2018, 16:53
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If joining the circuit from the overhead and there is other traffic doing a 747 type pattern, I will politely enquire via the tower or directly if its A/G if they intend on staying in the circuit or are departing for Stavanger, I'm on the East coast of Scotland. If you cant see the other guy due to him making calls about being somewhere he is not, don't be afraid to be proactive in asking where he's at, what his intentions are and even suggest an order for landing i.e. take control. Communication is key especially at uncontrolled fields even if non standard radio phraseology is used in getting the info you need to reduce risks. They're are a lot of guys in the cemetery who were in the right.
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Old 1st Oct 2018, 19:36
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The sooner that UK airfields go over to USA style 45 degree joins onto the beginning of downwind, the safer we'll all be. There's no need for overhead joins to view the windsock, followed by descents on the dead side. Mostly there are plenty of clues as to wind direction, including a comparison of GPS groundspeed with IAS on finals to tell if you have the desired headwind component. Even at non-radio airfields using SafetyCom only, all it takes is to announce your intentions and coordinate with other traffic verbally.
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Old 1st Oct 2018, 19:45
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Much of the replies seem to take radio comm's for granted. Allow me to point out (again) that radios are not mandatory except at certain places, and even if present they may go wrong? How then to "coordinate with other traffic verbally"? Getting close enough for shouting to work is questionable, to say the least!
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Old 1st Oct 2018, 20:04
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At the point of me crossing the upwind end of the runway and joining crosswind, I heard another aircraft call downwind (LH circuit). I couldn't see them but they were probably to my right
No, the other aircraft should have been on your left as the downwind call should not be made until abeam the threshold (CAP 413). One of the most important things when joining a circuit is to listen for other traffic on the radio so that you know what is going on from an early stage.
How much deviation in the published circuit is acceptable? Thoughts?!!
Apart from noise abatement the circuit is either LH or RH and its up to the pilot to position the aircraft based upon its speed and size. The concept that its a fixed line on the ground is nonsense.
As it was, climbing back to the overhead was not the wrong thing to do, but there could have been other traffic joining or departing from the overhead so it may not have been any safer than continuing your circuit with a good lookout.
The sooner that UK airfields go over to USA style 45 degree joins
Rubbish!
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Old 1st Oct 2018, 20:08
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[QUOTE
Rubbish!QUOTE]

Entirely predictable response, which needs justification.
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Old 1st Oct 2018, 20:56
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gogoflying well done for thinking safety first but some points;

1. The ICAO schematic indicates crossing the upwind end of the runway at 90 degrees and then turning 90 degrees onto the downwind leg but this is not quite the case in flight.

2. In still air you should allow for the radius of the turn to complete the turn at the downwind point and not halfway along the leg. This will require a crosswind leg which is offset upwind.

3. A wind will blow you into the downwind leg prematurely therefore lay off further into the wind to prevent this.

4. Offsetting in the above way provides for a better sight of aircraft already established further upwind and tracking to the downwind point (such as aircraft performing circuits).

note; turning onto downwind midway along the downwind leg will blank out vision of any aircraft already positioning at the downwind point, especially when flying a low wing aircraft.
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Old 1st Oct 2018, 21:15
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Whopity. The downwind call should be made when abeam the upwind threashold so in fact the ac should have been in front of the OP.
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Old 1st Oct 2018, 21:18
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The ICAO schematic indicates crossing the upwind end of the runway at 90 degrees
Which ICAO schematic? Pointer/URL?
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Old 1st Oct 2018, 22:09
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This is the diagram published by NZ but is identical to that published by the UK CAA, South Africa and Australia etc. It is also the join that is expected at my aerodrome in France and elsewhere that I fly in France. Can't find the ICAO reference, so sorry, but its international use is good enough to make the point.
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Old 2nd Oct 2018, 10:00
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Originally Posted by Fl1ingfrog View Post
4. Offsetting in the above way provides for a better sight of aircraft already established further upwind and tracking to the downwind point (such as aircraft performing circuits).
I like this point in particular. Makes a lot of sense!

Originally Posted by Fl1ingfrog View Post
No, the other aircraft should have been on your left as the downwind call should not be made until abeam the threshold (CAP 413). One of the most important things when joining a circuit is to listen for other traffic on the radio so that you know what is going on from an early stage.
Also this one is important, and I admit it wasn't something I was clear on. Probably as I have been used to flying at small airfields.

Thanks for all your comments.
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Old 2nd Oct 2018, 13:35
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I fly in both the US and UK and don't care whether I join Standard Overhead or Downwind on the 45. At Redhill we fly circuits at 1200 QNH (Airfield is 222 above sea level) but overhead joins are at 1400 QNH because Gatwick starts at 1500. All circuits are to the north and there is no dead side. We do have the benefit of ATC rather than A/G though !

Nearly everywhere else locally has some slightly different rule to avoid the airspace overhead or adjacent or local sensitive areas.

The main thing is that everybody does the same thing, keeps to a sensible sized circuit and reads all the pilot info at an unfamiliar field first and then observes the local heights or altitudes.
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Old 2nd Oct 2018, 16:38
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The main thing is that everybody does the same thing,
Yes yes and above all YES

keeps to a sensible sized circuit
Not really: as stated before, there are many fields where the circuit is where it is and nowhere else.

and reads all the pilot info at an unfamiliar field first
At the least. A phone call will never hurt, either, and will often be much appreciated.

and then observes the local heights or altitudes.
Of course.

But it cannot be said too often or too loud:
The main thing is that everybody does the same thing,
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Old 2nd Oct 2018, 17:21
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Originally Posted by gogoflying View Post

Also this one is important, and I admit it wasn't something I was clear on. Probably as I have been used to flying at small airfields.

Thanks for all your comments.
Just for clarity, the downwind call is made when abeam the upwind threashold. If people donít make it in the right place it makes trying to build the picture even more difficult.
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Old 2nd Oct 2018, 18:12
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Originally Posted by gogoflying View Post
Recently I struggled with a standard OHJ. I'm fairly inexperienced having only qualified this year,
Actually, you are now a little more experienced than you might think. This kind of thing happens all over the place, and on some airfields more than others.

As Piperboy points out, you can in fact, be both right and dead. It matters not who is right, but who is left.

I hesitate to say that we have all been where you were, but I doubt that it is rare. The very practical Standard Overhead Join, like it or not, (and I like it) is the published procedure in most places, and not always followed. What I dislike about the diagram, is that it assumes Left Hand Circuit and approaching from a suitable direction to fit in.

Picture a Right Hand Circuit on an East / West runway where you approach from the North West. That involves crossing the active twice in a right hand turn before you start your descent. Recovering to Perth from the South (Friarton Bridge) involves you staying at 2,000 QFE until you have crossed over both thresholds, and then start your descent on the deadside. One fine clear day, while doing so, I met another aircraft, head on, 100 feet below, doing an overhead join, but had got the circuit direction wrong.

One of my very few regrets in my flying has been that I failed to report this incident to the CAA. Another is turning down a back seat ride in one of the Red Arrows Synchro Pair.

We have published procedures for a reason, Some say, "we don't actually do that here, because some of the committee think it is wrong, in certain circumstances", but that is mental.

Still, we live and learn, hopefully.
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Old 3rd Oct 2018, 02:10
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The OHJ is a rather old method from the times of no radios. It was meant to check the wind direction, possible other traffic and runway condition. Consequently it is flown left turns, so the pilot is able to actually see all that. Nevertheless, you always had to be prepared for somebody else choosing a different runway to check in OHJ, because thinking of another wind direction initially. Btw, I think we should have call it different to 'overhead' as it tends to confuse, as it is more a 'over outside downwind THR' - many not acquainted start OHJ with a midfield, which might be dangereous at glider sites.

Also, beware of OHJ on the continent without checking the AIP first!
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Old 3rd Oct 2018, 20:38
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Ah, the standard Overhead Join! I was never happy with it. Especially at Booker, High Wycombe, with helicopters hither and yon, with noise abatement special measures, etc etc. And those of us learning to fly gliders....in those early days we were taught to fly the Standard Circuit pattern as displayed in the nicely coloured official drawing. When I became an instructor, in the K13, the downwind leg had a definite frisson, as the possibility of getting too low in the glider to make it back to Booker became increasingly likely!

And then the gliding authorities made a sensible amendment to our approved procedure. Getting low downwind? Cut the corner! This simple move kept the landing area in clear view and SAFER! Of course power traffic would prefer to enjoy the guidance of ATC, but on difficult gliding days when the thermals all quit at once, a lot of gliders may need to land ASAP.
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Old 15th Oct 2018, 11:01
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I know it is common courtesy not to cut in front of anyone, but trying to enter a circuit which has 2 or 3 plane already circulating, you need to cut in front of one plane and position behind another. Then everyone needs to adjust their circuits as there is now one more plane circulating.
If you fly a six minute circuit, with three planes, then the spacing should be 2 minutes each. By adding one plane you either all need to be doing 8 minute circuits, or accept a 6/4 = one and a half minute spacing.
At the airfield at which I fly, it has been known for pilots to opt for an impromptu local flight, instead of joining in the already packed circuit traffic.
.
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