This one comes as a suggestion from our very own chief flying instructor (CFI), Richard Wheeler. As part of the July 2023 edition of ‘AIRPROX Insight’ from the UK Airprox Board, comes a great example of why making accurate position reports in and around the circuit are so important and just as importantly, knowing the circuit pattern accurately.
At Sleap airfield, there were two aircraft; a PA-28 arriving at the same time from the south east and a Robin DR400 arriving from the east. The PA-28 pilot made an ‘overhead’ call at least 1 mile to the south west. Afterwards, the AGO (Air Ground Operator) responded to let him know that the Robin was descending deadside. Unfortunately, that was not the case, the Robin was still on the live side. The PA-28 pilot made the decision to orbit in order to look out, however that orbit was made in the path of the Robin that was now turning crosswind.
Important takeaways for overhead planning and flying
Rule of thumb: Keep the airfield on the same side of the aircraft as the circuit direction. For example, if it’s a left-hand circuit, keep the airfield on the left.
Make accurate position reports (overhead is not 1+ miles away from the airfield but overhead it). According to the CAA’s very excellent overhead join diagram, the overhead is within the boundary set by the dimensions of the published circuit.
The Skyway Code has an updated version of the above (CAP 1535 page 103 at time of writing):
Consider an overhead join in the first instance – it is designed to give us as pilots the best opportunity to build our situational awareness and integrate safely. The article made a strong point for the value of orbiting in the overhead to help with building situational awareness – there’s nothing stopping you from remaining in the overhead to gather your thoughts and build that awareness before committing to the circuit.
Never be afraid to ask if you don’t know and when asked ‘are you familiar with the airfield?’, be honest.
Always consult the eAIS package as part of your pre-flight planning for the airfield you are visiting (to do this, click the link, on the left under “part 2 – Aerodromes” select “AD 2 AERODROMES” and from the list, find your destination).
Ensure you have a clear plan in your mind before you approach the airfield that you can follow.
If in any doubt, go back into the overhead, reassess your situation and try again.
Following some comments from Richard Wheeler, SportAir’s CFI, and a close encounter while on downwind for 32 at Goodwood back in August 2023, if you are joining in the overhead – make sure you are in the overhead – minimum of 1,000 feet above circuit height.
Disclaimer: This post was written for reader entertainment only and was up to date at the time of writing. Always seek a qualified flying instructor or qualified professional for more information regarding aircraft and airfield operations, equipment, regulations and aviation legislation.