Pilot's Tip of the Week

Downwind Departures

Featuring Wally Moran

Subscriber question:

"When departing a non-towered airport, say you are going to make a downwind departure. Is it best to remain at pattern altitude in the vicinity of the airport or continue to climb in the pattern?" - Phillip E.
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"The aeronautical information manual does not list a downwind departure as a recommended procedure (for a non-towered airport). It says in part...

Downwind departuresIf departing the pattern, continue straight out, or exit with a 45 degree turn beyond the departure end of the runway after reaching pattern altitude.

While the AIM is not mandatory, it is considered the best practice.

Naturally, if you also announce your intentions on the CTAF you are helping the other pilots in the area.

In any case, however you choose to depart the pattern, there is no requirement to level off at pattern altitude until leaving the pattern. So feel free to climb away."

Next week's tip: Turbulence versus altitude

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