PREPARING to LAND

Execute your checklist before initiating the pattern.  Too many pilots wait until after entering downwind, when it may be already too late for timely response to developments such as unseen traffic, a change in surface wind, mechanical failure, HEAVY SINK…

Make it a point to remain upwind of your entry point in the last minute or so before committing to land.  If the wind is strong and there are no traffic conflicts, a figure eight (turning into the wind at each end) will prevent drifting over the pattern area as you let down.

There are several reasons for not entering the pattern from higher than standard altitude.  First, starting with excess height makes you alter your normal technique and that can lead to unnecessary difficulties.  If you lack inexperience or currency what you need is practice, and entering the pattern unnecessarily high denies an opportunity to reinforce and refine ordinary procedure.  Another reason:  other pilots may be soaring nearby, lower but still above pattern height, and trying to stay aloft.  By entering too soon you could oblige them to give up and land first, only to pay for another tow.  Or perhaps someone is below you in a BLIND SPOT, intending to land and assuming you’re not.  If they’re directly below they may never see you, and innocently cut you off.

If you’ve arrived lower than standard pattern entry height, flying a full pattern would only squander precious energy and lengthen the period of increased hazard.  Instead (being very careful not to interrupt ordinary traffic!) fly to the point where you can intercept standard procedure as high and as soon as possible.  The objective is to make a safe landing in a safe place.  You and them!  Nothing else matters.