Pilot's tip of the week

Legal Approach?


Subscriber question:

"Can you use the straight-in approach at non-towered airports? If so where in the FAR's does it state this? I have heard both yes and no, what is the legal answer?"
- Scott N.


“Sorry, I can’t show you a place where the FAR’s tell you something is legal. They usually tell you what is not legal. As far as I know, there is no FAR that says a straight-in approach at a non-towered airport is illegal.

Best practices for pilots in part are spelled out in the Aeronautical Information Manual and there it suggests that the best practice is to enter at a 45-degree angle to the downwind leg of the traffic pattern. This is also stated in the Airplane Flying Handbook.

This practice has many safety advantages. But, if you want to make a straight-in approach, you will not be in violation of any traffic pattern rules. However, if you were to come straight-in at a busy and bustling airport, that perhaps could be considered a careless and reckless operation. There is a rule that says you can’t fly that way.

At Lakeland airport during the Sun n’ Fun fly-in, there are very strict rules for the pattern and guess what, we all enter the traffic pattern on the downwind leg. Can you imagine what a straight-in arrival would do at a place like that?

Naturally check NOTAMs and the airport facilities directory for any special procedures, then if you want to use best practices, enter the pattern at a 45-degree angle on downwind leg.”

Note: The FAA details an alternate midfield entry pattern in Advisory Circular (AC) 90-66B, Non-Towered Airport Flight Options.

Do you prefer a straight-in approach to non-towered airports?

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