Some pilots begin their landing pattern far higher than the normal altitude, or from some unusual place, often from mere sloppiness. We generally discourage that for several reasons.
First, here at Crystal more than half our flights are for training, whether with an instructor or solo, and it’s tough to develop solid technique for predictable landings while starting from a different point each time. Those who lack inexperience or currency need practice, and dismissing standard procedure denies that purpose altogether.
Also, other pilots may be nearby, lower but still above pattern height, still trying to stay aloft (I’ve been right there a hundred times). By entering too soon you could oblige
me them to give up and land first, only to pay for another tow. Perhaps someone is below you in a blind spot – theirs and/or yours – intending to land before you do. They may never see you and unknowingly cut you off. Or others may see you but not believe you’re really in the pattern, and so commit to their own approach…
You think we’re overstating this? True story: A student once entered downwind 300 feet higher than standard, and while he was arguing that the difference didn’t matter, not one, but two other gliders passed under us at the proper height, supposing we’d follow them in a minute or two later. Yes, that happened.
If you happen to arrive lower than standard pattern entry height, however, flying a ‘proper’ pattern would only squander precious energy and lengthen the period of increased hazard. Instead (being careful not to interrupt ordinary traffic!) fly directly to the point where you can intercept standard procedure as high and as soon as possible — even if it means a nice crisp COORDINATED turn to final at 100 feet. The objective, after all, is to make a safe landing in a safe place. Nothing else matters.
Practicing the straight-and-narrow of standard landing patterns leaves all that other air space available for dire improvisation in genuine emergencies — for which every self-respecting aviator should develop the flexibility to adapt when necessary. We do encourage rated pilots to practice unusual approaches when appropriate, but only with communication beforehand.