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‘Left downwind’ in a right hand circuit?

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‘Left downwind’ in a right hand circuit?

Old 14th Dec 2020, 10:09
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With3Tees
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‘Left downwind’ in a right hand circuit?

Hello,

i was asked to join ‘left downwind’ in a right hand circuit the other day. It confused me and I asked the tower to confirm right hand circuit, which they did.

Does ‘left downwind’ just mean, downwind? Does anyone else find this confusing?

Cheers
Matt
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Old 14th Dec 2020, 10:25
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'Left downwind' is (slightly) incorrect anyway.
'Downwind' with no further specification implicitly includes the default 'left'
I suppose it was a slip of the tongue by the tower operator.
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Old 14th Dec 2020, 10:44
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Bearing in mind that in that case, with the published circuit being right hand, perhaps “Join LEFT HAND, downwind”, with emphasis on the “left hand”, might have been less confusing.
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Old 14th Dec 2020, 11:14
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Sorry, agree with the OP, it's confusing to use the word left in any sense when the prevailing circuits are right hand.

Give runway in use, wind speed/direction, QFE and circuit traffic advisory if appropriate.

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Old 14th Dec 2020, 11:58
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Agreed. Maybe could have said join dead side

Originally Posted by Momoe View Post
Sorry, agree with the OP, it's confusing to use the word left in any sense when the prevailing circuits are right hand.

Give runway in use, wind speed/direction, QFE and circuit traffic advisory if appropriate.
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Old 14th Dec 2020, 12:22
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Originally Posted by ShyTorque View Post
Bearing in mind that in that case, with the published circuit being right hand, perhaps “Join LEFT HAND, downwind”, with emphasis on the “left hand”, might have been less confusing.
Shy, I think, from the OP, that it was a RH circuit they were to fly so the above would not have been correct on that day. What ATC, confusingly (and in a non-standard way) seemed to mean was "join downwind on the left hand side of the airfield for a right hand cct"!!!!

The CAP used to say (and what should have been said to the OP) was "G-CD, join righthand downwind Rw 27 Ht 1000 ft QFE 1006" which specified a RH cct. It said, in explanation, "When the traffic circuit is a RH pattern it shall be specified. A LH pattern need not be specified although it is essential to do so when the cct direction is variable.." (their bold!).

On related thread creep, best cct ATC ever was many years back when Southampton was GA-friendly and, with a very busy cct one Saturday, a "fly in" by a French aeroclub arrived en masse. Utter chaos ensued with, eventually, the following classic from ATC:-

"All UK traffic, Tower, all orbit your in your current positions - and keep a very good lookout - I'll call you in once they have all landed!!!". After about 5 minutes, a further 5 or 6 planes had plonked themselves onto the runway with no further ATC input and, eventually, the poor ATCO started to sequence us all back round the cct again!

It sort of reminded me of a mini-BoB - planes darting in for the numbers from all different directions. Oddly, they all managed to pick the one runway direction which, I believe by pure chance, was actually the active one!!!!

Last edited by Hot 'n' High; 14th Dec 2020 at 12:36.
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Old 14th Dec 2020, 15:03
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Originally Posted by Supermattt View Post
Hello,

i was asked to join ‘left downwind’ in a right hand circuit the other day. It confused me and I asked the tower to confirm right hand circuit, which they did.

Does ‘left downwind’ just mean, downwind? Does anyone else find this confusing?

Cheers
Matt
Assuming it is full ATC (you say Tower and you say you were asked to join left downwind) then I would assume he was clearing you to join downwind for a left hand circuit whilst a right hand circuit was generally in use. There could be many reasons for this, the most obvious being that you were approaching from that direction. It’s not at all unusual, so just read back...”Roger G-xxxx to join left hand downwind”. He will soon correct you if it’s wrong.
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Old 14th Dec 2020, 15:24
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Originally Posted by 3wheels View Post
Assuming it is full ATC (you say Tower and you say you were asked to join left downwind) then I would assume he was clearing you to join downwind for a left hand circuit whilst a right hand circuit was generally in use. There could be many reasons for this, the most obvious being that you were approaching from that direction. It’s not at all unusual, so just read back...”Roger G-xxxx to join left hand downwind”. He will soon correct you if it’s wrong.
I’d agree with this. Normally, they do right turns, but for whatever reason, the ATC needed you to do a left pattern. Quite common at busy training airports in the US.
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Old 14th Dec 2020, 15:56
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Assuming it is full ATC (you say Tower and you say you were asked to join left downwind) then I would assume he was clearing you to join downwind for a left hand circuit whilst a right hand circuit was generally in use. There could be many reasons for this, the most obvious being that you were approaching from that direction. It’s not at all unusual, so just read back...”Roger G-xxxx to join left hand downwind”. He will soon correct you if it’s wrong.
Yes, this.

It is totally fair and wise of you to ask for clarification/confirmation if you don't understand. Once a tower instruction is clear, follow it. It is a very wise habit to read back the critical element of a clearance. Not necessarily required for VFR flying, but very wise. Because, if by chance, what you read back is what you understood, but not what the controller said, it then becomes the controller's responsibility to sort it out. Read back what you understand to do, then do what you read back.
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Old 14th Dec 2020, 16:37
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Seems clear enough to me. He instructed you to join downwind for a left hand circuit, regardless of what hand the rest of the traffic is doing.
So join LH downwind and call it, Tower will pick that up if it wasn't what they'd intended. If still in doubt you might ask if you'll need to extend your downind leg before turning left base.
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Old 14th Dec 2020, 17:06
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Originally Posted by Hot 'n' High View Post
Shy, I think, from the OP, that it was a RH circuit they were to fly so the above would not have been correct on that day. What ATC, confusingly (and in a non-standard way) seemed to mean was "join downwind on the left hand side of the airfield for a right hand cct"!!!!

The CAP used to say (and what should have been said to the OP) was "G-CD, join righthand downwind Rw 27 Ht 1000 ft QFE 1006" which specified a RH cct. It said, in explanation, "When the traffic circuit is a RH pattern it shall be specified. A LH pattern need not be specified although it is essential to do so when the cct direction is variable.." (their bold!).

On related thread creep, best cct ATC ever was many years back when Southampton was GA-friendly and, with a very busy cct one Saturday, a "fly in" by a French aeroclub arrived en masse. Utter chaos ensued with, eventually, the following classic from ATC:-

"All UK traffic, Tower, all orbit your in your current positions - and keep a very good lookout - I'll call you in once they have all landed!!!". After about 5 minutes, a further 5 or 6 planes had plonked themselves onto the runway with no further ATC input and, eventually, the poor ATCO started to sequence us all back round the cct again!

It sort of reminded me of a mini-BoB - planes darting in for the numbers from all different directions. Oddly, they all managed to pick the one runway direction which, I believe by pure chance, was actually the active one!!!!

I had somethign similar in Le Touquet many years ago. Fly out (half a dozen a/c) form my club arriving from the South, several arriving from UK plus the Trislander coming in IFR. Poor guy in Le Touquet sorted out the Trislander then eventually gave up and just told us to get on with it, keep a good lookout and make all the normal positioning calls.
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Old 14th Dec 2020, 17:20
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Shy, I think, from the OP, that it was a RH circuit they were to fly so the above would not have been correct on that day. What ATC, confusingly (and in a non-standard way) seemed to mean was "join downwind on the left hand side of the airfield for a right hand cct"!!!!
Yes, my understanding was that ATC wanted the OP to join from the left. Nothing wrong with that. ATC are perfectly entitled to control joining traffic - it's their job!

One reason might have been where an aircraft is about to depart and the joining aircraft is on the left side of the runway. Joining for the "correct" right hand downwind would require the joining aircraft to cross the climb out, whereas joining downwind left side wouldn't.

I can't understand why some think this is a big issue.
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Old 14th Dec 2020, 17:42
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Originally Posted by ShyTorque View Post
........ ATC are perfectly entitled to control joining traffic.
I agree, but (a) this seems not to be the case here and (b) when they do, it's usually conditional if the other cct has traffic which appears to be what alerted Supermattt in this instance.

If there is no other traffic, right or left does not matter - ATC will tell you and off you go. But, in this case, Supermattt seems to have heard RH cct traffic so questioned ATC who then contradicted what they'd said ("left hand") and confirmed they wanted Sm to actually fly a RH cct. The use of the word "left hand downwind" is not appropriate (according to the CAP) for a RH cct. I think we need Supermattt to clear up our confusion now.

I have, on occasions, flown a mixed contra-circuit in the UK, usually to fit in with some "cunning ATCO master plan" or similar and it was always loaded up with "conditionals" and warnings so I'd get something along the lines of (assuming everyone else was on a left hand cct) "C/S, join right hand downwind for 27 right hand circuit, report ready for right Base. You are currently No 2 to the traffic just turning downwind in the left hand circuit. Report when you have that traffic in sight". Usually, once I'd confirmed "visual" the clearance changed to something like "With that traffic in sight, report Final as No 2, you may extend downwind for spacing". As you say 3wheels (and Shy!!), it can save crossing the departure lane to join downwind.

The confusion here seems to be that ATC cleared Sm for "left hand downwind" but wanted Sm to fly a RH cct. We need Supermattt to explain!!
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Old 14th Dec 2020, 18:09
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H'n'H,

But you're not in the circuit until you have actually joined the circuit...It seems that he was told to JOIN from the left but then ATC simply confirmed that any subsequent circuit (if flown) was to be flown to the right.

If you flew helicopters, or operated from a larger airport, you would have to become VERY much used to being told to do this sort of thing.
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Old 14th Dec 2020, 18:27
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Originally Posted by ShyTorque View Post
H'n'H,

But you're not in the circuit until you have actually joined the circuit...It seems that he was told to JOIN from the left but then ATC simply confirmed that any subsequent circuit (if flown) was to be flown to the right.

If you flew helicopters, or operated from a larger airport, you would have to become VERY much used to being told to do this sort of thing.
Indeed. I remember a local CAA safety briefing evening some years ago. The Speaker bringing excellent clarity regarding turn directions in the circuit, albeit based on the standard overhead join.

If the circuit is left hand, every future turn you make from entering the overhead to turning final should only be to the left. And conversely for right hand circuits. Obviously circuit orbiting should be an initial turn away from the runway, which flies in the face of this, but the general gist is sound.


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Old 14th Dec 2020, 18:58
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Obviously circuit orbiting should be an initial turn away from the runway, which flies in the face of this,
...which makes it so highly dangerous and to be avoided at all costs. If baulked in the circuit, the safest procedure (and standard at several airfields) is to continue to fly the circuit at circuit height/altitude until able to have sufficient spacing to approach and land. Next best, but only when it's quiet, is to 'extend downwind' but doing this when there is following traffic means that you wind up with a trail of aircraft behind you, inevitably one will see an opportunity to short-circuit (pun intended) and cut everyone else up.

TOO
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Old 14th Dec 2020, 19:12
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Originally Posted by TheOddOne View Post
...which makes it so highly dangerous and to be avoided at all costs. If baulked in the circuit, the safest procedure (and standard at several airfields) is to continue to fly the circuit at circuit height/altitude until able to have sufficient spacing to approach and land. Next best, but only when it's quiet, is to 'extend downwind' but doing this when there is following traffic means that you wind up with a trail of aircraft behind you, inevitably one will see an opportunity to short-circuit (pun intended) and cut everyone else up.

TOO
If you're at an airfield with ATC as was the OP's case, you need to comply with what they tell you to do. I had one particular incident where I popped out of cloud at 140 kts on the ILS at a busy UK airport (having been cleared to land) only to find a Cessna 152 less than 100 metres ahead and slightly below. I had no option but to overtake him on the left. The pilot had been told to hold on right base, but didn't.
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Old 14th Dec 2020, 19:29
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i was asked to join ‘left downwind’ in a right hand circuit the other day. Does ‘left downwind’ just mean, downwind? ................Does anyone else find this confusing?
Not confusing at all - it was utter rubbish! You had your wits about you and queried things. You then, I presume, got on with it in the proper way. From the phrasing as you quote it, it doesn't sound like a qualified ATC to me by the way. Remember a qualified controller is never in charge of your aeroplane and never wants to be. So, never let your guard down because we all make mistakes, ATC no less.
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Old 14th Dec 2020, 19:39
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Originally Posted by ShyTorque View Post
H'n'H,...... If you flew helicopters, or operated from a larger airport, you would have to become VERY much used to being told to do this sort of thing.
Lol! Maybe I know a just a little more than you give me credit for! But no hard feelings! I've made my case ..... over to others!!

Keep up the good work tho Shy - we may be talking past each other this time but usually you are an "oasis of sanity" on this site! A rare animal indeed!

Have a good eve! Cheers, H 'n' H
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Old 14th Dec 2020, 20:27
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The best and most effective way to create circuit spacing is to slow down as required, which is not difficult, and will allow you to maintain the correct pattern. This is, for all of us, easily achieved and is also just as we do in our car, several times, on the way to the airfield.
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