The topic of this month’s rant is the constantly annoying, logically unexplainable, incredibly expensive, sometimes dangerous, often unsafe, and bloody frkn stupid cross country traffic pattern.
The 2016 version of the Airplane Flying Handbook, FAA-H-8083-3B, recommends flying a normal airport traffic pattern generally at 1000 feet AGL and at a distance from the airport of between ½ and 1 mile from the runway. Yet, regularly here at Montgomery Field, I end up chasing some Bozo halfway to El Cajon on the downwind, turn base behind him on a three mile final, and start looking for an emergency landing field because the stupid bugger has run me dry from a full fuel tank. (Okay. Maybe that’s a tad exaggerated. But I always thought, and had been taught, that you should keep your traffic pattern within gliding distance of a runway. There’s no way that 747-Captain-in-Training Basil Babozo could make a successful glide to the airport from the distances he travels from that airport. OR, worse, the distances that his wet-behind-the-ears instructor insists that he fly the pattern. Which are, no doubt, recommended by their Let’s Keep That Prop Spinning The Hell With How Much The Student Ends Up Spending Professional Flight Training Academy.)
Why do pilots fly them? Well, we could go back to the newby CFI who aspires to grander aviation dreams than light general aviation training airplanes. Not interested or cut out for flight training but realizing it’s the only way to amass sufficient hours for that first, REAL, paid professional flying gig, he has visions of captaining a 787 – and teaches a traffic pattern better served by such an aircraft. He could also be instructed by the aforementioned Fleabag Flight Academy to ensure that each trip around the traffic pattern take a minimum of ten minutes (for safety, of course – we don’t want our students to get tired by extensive landing practice) and is consummated by, not by a touch and go, but a full stop landing with a taxi back to the assigned runway so that the instructor and student have sufficient time to discuss every nuance of the previously flown pattern, approach and landing. Oh, and take more money from the poor student’s rapidly emptying pocket.
I have flown patterns behind these kinds of people and, people, lemme tell ya it ain’t pretty, it ain’t efficient, and it ain’t bloody right.