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Author Topic: Pattern Confusion at KATW  (Read 1715 times)
usafltg
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« on: August 02, 2014, 11:48:48 AM »

Hi guys,

New to the forum, but have a question that's been bothering me that I thought I would ask here.

I'm out of Chicago, and fly out of 3CK. I've been all over the place, but this situation has happened to me twice now, both of which were at Wisconsin fields.

In any case, about a month ago I was flying direct 3CK - KATW in an Archer III (northerly heading) VFR on flight following. I was handed off to to Tower with current ATIS information, to which I informed Tower @ 10nm. I was also currently @ 1000 above pattern alt.

Tower came back and told me to "enter downwind for rwy 12 then call your base." OK.... well that's all great, but here's where my confusion is. ATC never mentioned left or right traffic. I'm heading in a northerly direction and he wants me to land on an easterly rwy. Now I was also told that if no traffic direction is indicated and there's nothing in the AFD, to assume a left traffic pattern.

So at 1000 above pattern, I overflew the field, thinking I would do a left 360 and setup for the 45 for 12. As soon as I overfly the field above pattern altitude ATC comes back and says "Uh, where ya goin?"

So my question is, should I have originally asked for clarification? Should I have assumed a right pattern and thus a left 45 entry to downwind of 12? Should I have entered the crosswind of 12 and avoided the 45 all together (seems ilogical to me)?

Very confused here....
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martyj19
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« Reply #1 on: August 02, 2014, 02:27:04 PM »

I would say the controller should have cleared you "enter on a right downwind runway 12 report turning base".

I would say since you are on the south side of the airport your best plan would have been to "confirm a right downwind runway 12, report turning base" when you were reading back and then after the controller has clarified that they meant right traffic descend to pattern altitude and enter on the 45 to the right downwind.  There is no chance that they intended you to do the complex maneuver you had in mind simply to get into left traffic.

Where I fly out of they normally use both turn directions depending on which side of the airport you are approaching from, and closed traffic on the side that is commercial rather than residential, even though it breaks the left unless published right rule.

If the field is not towered, then the published direction of traffic should always be observed.
« Last Edit: August 02, 2014, 02:41:35 PM by martyj19 » Logged
svoynick
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« Reply #2 on: August 03, 2014, 04:37:38 AM »

So my question is, should I have originally asked for clarification? Should I have assumed a right pattern and thus a left 45 entry to downwind of 12? Should I have entered the crosswind of 12 and avoided the 45 all together (seems ilogical to me)?

Very confused here....
I would suggest that not only should you have asked for clarification, it should have been almost an instinctive reflex to do so when you didn't hear a completely specified instruction.  (...and I don't mean any of this to be harsh criticism, it's just that clear communications are so important to flight safety...)

I don't have my AIM in front of me here, so I can't check, but I wonder if you go back and look up a reference to what you are saying: "if no traffic direction is indicated and there's nothing in the AFD, to assume a left traffic pattern...." you'll find that this is an assumption that applies to operation an uncontrolled field.  I believe (but I'm always willing to be corrected) that it's not really applied to a controlled field because ATC is supposed to provide that information.

For a few decades now, "CRM" (Cockpit/Crew Resource Management) has been a big area of training.  It's a pretty broad area, but the overview is that crew members are trained to use all the resources available in the most optimal way to enhance the safety of flight.  It includes interpersonal issues like personality and communication, training issues like the interface between pilot and machine, and cognitive issues such as situational awareness, problem recognition, task management and overload, etc.

The concepts of CRM can also apply to single-pilot operations.  Even with a single pilot you still have man/machine interface issues, task loading issues, the Aeronautical Decision Making process, communications (e.g. with ATC) and so on.  The idea is still to use each resource you have available in the most optimum way when you need to solve a problem, fill a gap, keep your situational awareness as high as possible, etc.

In your situation, you had a gap - confusion about the pattern direction.  Now, you're certainly aware of utilizing available resources, since you are aware that sometimes a pattern direction is indicated (with ground markings) or specified in the AFD, and if neither of these, then you apply the general "left pattern" rule of thumb.  Given an uncontrolled airport, these pieces of knowledge might have been the only resources you had available at that moment to fill your gap.

But in your actual situation, I would suggest you had a much better resource that was not only available, but has high value and reliability, and is already part of a system specifically designed to "team" with you for the safety of your flight, and that's the controller.  

To narrow the question down to your particular situation: given that you recognized you had confusion on the pattern direction issue, what was the best, most reliable resource you had to resolve that confusion?  In the controlled field environment, when you're talking to the tower, if you KNOW you have that gap, and you have the choice of filling it with an assumption (which leaves uncertainty) or confirming with the controller (which "costs" nothing and guarantees a reliable solution), doesn't it make hugely more sense to use the controller resource?  

My question (and please understand that I'm asking this gently, not to needle you, but to help you consider your use of the resources you had available):  is there something that you thought was not right or appropriate about asking the controller for clarification in this case?  Was there a source of hesitation that you felt?

In a way, I think you had a kind of an advantage...  A 'dumb' pilot might have just stumbled into the pattern one way or the other and never know or care about the ambiguity in the controller's instruction.  Maybe he gets it right "by chance" and nobody ever notices the difference.  But you got step 1 right:  you recognized that there was a missing piece - whether the controller didn't say it, whether you just didn't hear it, the point is that you recognized that you didn't have that piece.  The next step is to consider the resources you have available to you, and use them in the best, most reliable way to fill that gap.  And another critical piece of the whole picture is to be able to recognize and get past any human obstacles (hesitation, embarrassment, communication issues, personality issues, etc...) that might get in the way of that most optimum resource usage.



« Last Edit: August 03, 2014, 04:59:15 AM by svoynick » Logged
swa4678
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« Reply #3 on: August 03, 2014, 04:30:17 PM »

Looking at it from the controller's side...

7110.65 ยง 3-10-1 ("Landing Information") part (a) says:

Quote
a. Specific traffic pattern information (may be omitted if the aircraft is to circle the airport to the left).

PHRASEOLOGY-
ENTER LEFT/RIGHT BASE.

STRAIGHT-IN.

MAKE STRAIGHT-IN.

STRAIGHT-IN APPROVED.

RIGHT TRAFFIC.

MAKE RIGHT TRAFFIC.

RIGHT TRAFFIC APPROVED.

CONTINUE.

So, if you were given a non-directional instruction for the traffic pattern where right traffic is what the controller intended, then I'd say that controller is using non-standard phraseology that deviates from the .65 and is going to confuse pilots unfamiliar with the area but familiar with the "default to the left" rule/guidance.

Honestly, if this happened twice (maybe after the first time, but only if the controller tried to make something out of it), I'd personally call the tower and ask for clarification as to why they aren't giving directional pattern entry instructions when right traffic is intended.
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svoynick
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« Reply #4 on: August 04, 2014, 01:30:28 AM »

Quote
a. Specific traffic pattern information (may be omitted if the aircraft is to circle the airport to the left).
It seems I should acknowledge that I was completely wrong in thinking this only applied to uncontrolled fields.  I need to study up a bit more in my AIM...

I do stand by the rest of my thoughts, although maybe I have less credibility now!  grin
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swa4678
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« Reply #5 on: August 04, 2014, 11:34:42 AM »

It seems I should acknowledge that I was completely wrong in thinking this only applied to uncontrolled fields.

Depends if you're a "glass half full" or "glass half empty" kind of guy... I'd say you were partially correct since it does apply to uncontrolled fields as well.  grin (I believe AIM Chapter 4, Section 3 in parts 4-3-2(b) and 4-3-4(b)(5) are what you were referring to.)
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martyj19
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« Reply #6 on: August 04, 2014, 01:43:12 PM »

Section 4-3-5 of the AIM might also be relevant here, dealing with Unexpected Maneuvers in the Airport Traffic Pattern, in reference to the maneuver that the original poster was considering on the opposite side of the airport.
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