# My opinion of the best way to fly the pattern at a non-towered airport.

#### Vance

##### Gyroplane CFI
Recently in a discussion about how to fly at a non-towered airport and avoid the flow of fixed wing traffic per AC 90-66B someone recommended flying at 500 feet above the ground closer to the runway so they can still glide to the runway if the engine goes quiet. They felt if they were five hundred feet above the ground and flew the downwind 1,500 feet out they could land on the runway if the engine went quiet with a three to one glide ratio. Being generous I will use 1,000 feet from the runway for the simple calculations.

Let me start by saying that you will be making people very nervous flying opposite direction just a thousand feet from the runway so I would not recommend it for that reason alone.

Practical test standards are plus or minus 100 feet so let’s imagine he is flying better than the PTS and is flying exactly 500 feet above the ground when the engine goes quiet.

With a three to one glide ratio he can glide 1,500 feet.

I have often read it typically takes four seconds to understand that you have a problem and make a decision to make an emergency landing. At 50kts indicated air speed that uses up about 332 feet of our glide and have about 1,168 feet before touching down.

Unfortunately our desired touchdown is not straight ahead. The steeper we turn the more energy we will use so we make a constant rate turn. Half of the circumference a 1,000 foot circle is 1,571 feet.

The other problem with being low in a gyroplane is it is hard for fixed wing pilots to see us because we don’t have wings and are lost in the ground clutter. On final when their nose is high it is difficult to see below them.

If something goes wrong and you are hit from behind both pilots in command are responsible for see and avoid so assuming there are any survivors they will have to answer to the FAA for their failure to see and avoid.

In my opinion landing on the taxiway at any non-towered airport I have flown into would be a very bad idea.

My recommendation based on my experience and judgment is to fly a closer pattern (1,500 feet from the runway centerline) at pattern altitude making a steep descent on final, touching down abeam a taxiway and quickly taxiing off the runway.

The simple math from 1,000 feet above the ground with a three to one glide ratio is 3,000 feet glide available minus 332 feet for decision making and 2,356 feet for the half circle of 1,500 feet for a total of 2,688 required. As long as they were flying to practical tests standards and were a minimum of 900 feet above the ground they could just make it.

I would love to read other workable opinions.

#### EdL

##### Comm Rotor Gyro, ASEL
Other than one demo flight in an MTO Sport and a TAG and two in an AR-1, all of my time has been in a Magni M-16, with Dayton (an excellent CFI as well as a DPE) as my trainer for all but about 6 hours overall, for both my Private and my Commercial. The other 6 hours were from a retired Army helo pilot who flew with the 160th SOAR (go look that one up).

Almost exclusively, we did pattern work at 500 feet and same direction as the fixed-wings, however the field we flew at required west-only patterns, so the direction was a bit artificial. When I did a cross-country with the helo pilot and in prep for my check ride, he "busted" me for not having done a right pattern at a place where left patterns were the norm. That's what prompted my review of AC 90-66B with him and Dayton.

The field where we trained has "heavy" gyro training by Dayton, so people are familiar with gyros in the pattern but pilots at most other local fields are not. We flew tight patterns and did a TON of simulated engine-outs from 500 feet and needing to land on "THAT spot". I never had a problem doing that and, in fact, typically needed to broaden/square the turn to base and final to lose enough altitude to get down without overshooting.

At my home field, mine is the only gyro, so I'm very sensitive to preserving a good image of the craft. I fly 1000 ft patterns and keep my speed up until the turn to base. I stay out of people's way as much as I can. Granted, my M-16 can fly faster than the Cubs in the pattern, so I have much less of an issue than I imagine a Bensen would. I typically do power-on landings and fly a glide path similar to a fixed wing if someone else is in the pattern (if not, I don't hesitate to do a power-off approach for the practice/fun). I also air-taxi to the south end at 65mph, to exit on our taxiway (we live on an airpark). Our traffic volume is low enough that I actually tend to stay out of the pattern until others have come and gone (touch-and-gos aren't permitted at our field, so that helps).

Most of my time flying outside of the pattern is between 500 and 1000 agl, so I need to climb to get to pattern altitude back home. Ironically, practicing a 500 ft pattern is closer to "reality", since that would be closer to where I'd be if the fan quit while flying outside the pattern. I ALWAYS stay at/above 65mph when below 500ft, even on final, until about to touch down. That comes from getting schwacked in the back of the helmet by Dayton or Scott if I went slower (OK - not really - but close).

I haven't spent a lot of time on opposite-direction patterns, although ironically those I have done have mostly been at a towered field. I view my gyro as a flying motorcycle (yet I've never ridden motorcycles) and just assume I'm invisible, so I look carefully for others, make radio calls which include calling other traffic "in sight", and maneuver as if they can't see me. I also am a firm believer in ADS-B in and out. If I heard someone else was on the downwind and I couldn't see them and they couldn't see me, I'd have no problem crossing over the field and flying an upwind, to get a better look.

Despite being taught by Dayton and Scott about the opposite-side pattern, I don't plan to do that much; it's defined for helos and we're not helos. We do not hover to land and our flying speeds are much closer to a Cub's than a helo's. I'll stay at 1000 ft except at places where 500 ft for a gyro is the norm. I do fly tighter in but I am always very clear on intentions; if a fixed-wing is flying outside of me and faster and lands before me, that means there's a risk our paths will cross as they turn to base. That said, I don't think an opposite pattern is actually such a bad idea; nobody else should be there and one can extend the downwind as they see fit without the risk of crossing paths, as could happen on same-side operations.

Frankly, I think a big problem for our community is our own personal confusion over what we are and are not flying. They are not helicopters. Thinking of them more like Cubs has been helpful for me.

/Ed

#### WaspAir

##### Supreme Allied Gyro CFI
I never fly opposite patterns in a gyro, nor do I teach it. I do it routinely in my helicopter. And while we're on the topic of differences, "air taxi" in the rotorcraft sense to me is flying a helicopter fast enough to benefit from effective translational lift (25 kts will do fine) and in level flight a bit higher than a hover taxi (well below 100 feet, prepared to do a helo "quick-stop" at any moment), which gets you across a field reasonably quickly while making minimum rotorwash that might disturb anybody/anything else on the field. In my view, gyros simply do not "air taxi" any more than they hover, and 65 mph is way, way too fast to consider it to be any form of "taxi". Landing long is not the same thing.

It also doesn't make sense to fly an opposite pattern in a gyro if you're going to end up using the same runway as the airplanes. Sequencing such an operation (with traffic coming from both sides of the runway at once) would be very difficult for fixed wing pilots in the pattern to figure out. It works for helicopters to fly opposite because they generally don't use runways at all, landing on a small spot somewhere else, not on the runway. For a helicopter, that spot can be on a taxiway with less cause for concern because the helicopter won't typically use up any distance on the taxiway and a rapid side-step in the air is very easy to do for the benefit of ground operations; none of that is generally true for a gyro, and I avoid landing a gyro on taxiways for those reasons.

Your helo friend who "busted" you might have been correct if the two of you were in a helicopter, but I consider him wrong to have insisted on an opposite pattern in a gyro.

For me, what makes a gyro fit in the best with lots of fixed wing traffic is flying a pattern that takes similar time to complete and is always visible to other pilots. If you fly a smaller, closer in pattern, at lower speed, the total time elapsed can be very close; this lets you fit in between fixed wing pilots flying a bigger, faster route, to slot in between other arriving aircraft (in timing, not in space), and to maintain that slot as the pattern proceeds. Your slot won't change if you have matched the time to complete the pattern.

As to visibility, when flying a closer pattern I also fly it a bit lower. My intention is for the pilots on downwind to have me in their line of sight when looking toward the runway. On the same downwind side of the runway I don't worry about getting lost in ground clutter for pilots who are looking toward the runway; if I were on the opposite side of the field, I might well get lost in that ground clutter.

P.S. The smaller, closer pattern means that the base leg will be closer to the numbers than that flown by airplane pilots, and base-turning airplanes won't be crossing your shorter downwind path. I agree with Vance that taxiway intersections are excellent places to put it down for a rapid exit and can they also help when adjusting for crosswinds by angling into the wind .

#### SpyderMike

##### Newbie
As a fixed winger flying a Cirrus SR22, I am looking at my pattern, or there abouts, for traffic. In one of my home fields (KCNO - Chino, CA) they land rotorcraft at a different (crossing) runway. Not always easy to spot. I am doing 100kts downwind. Someone must have decided this is best, but with a few flingwing schools at the airport, it makes things interesting.

​​​​

#### Vance

##### Gyroplane CFI
Thank you Ed that is just the sort of input I was hoping for. I have never liked opposite side traffic.

The two class D airports I fly into most often (SMX and SBP) have the rotorcraft pattern five hundred feet below the fixed with traffic and SBP in the chart supplement shows left traffic for all runways and right traffic for rotorcraft. I have done pattern work at SBP and like most towered airports ATC does what is convenient.

Thank you J.R. I particularly like your line of sight to the runway thought process.

Interesting information Mike. The last time I flew into Chino I called the tower on the phone for local procedures and they told me to fly the fixed wing pattern and altitude with a gyroplane. It was during the AOPA fly-in so it was quite busy. Perhaps things have changed.

I find all rotorcraft very difficult to see.

Santa Barbara is a training tower and often I will get a new controller that will mistake me for a helicopter despite me saying gyroplane on every call. I have been asked to hover somewhere to wait for traffic.

At several airports ATC has told me that I cannot hover taxi to self-serve and it sometimes takes several calls to get them to understand I have wheels and can taxi with the rotor stopped.

If I have asked for something different most towers will accommodate my request.

Ground people often want me to pull up and park with the rotor still spinning.

#### EdL

##### Comm Rotor Gyro, ASEL
“In my view, gyros simply do not "air taxi" any more than they hover, and 65 mph is way, way too fast to consider it to be any form of "taxi". Landing long is not the same thing.”

While I get the point, I personally do see a distinction between “landing long” (where one either intentionally picks a different aim point and round-out point down the field or where they unintentionally float well past their intended touchdown point) and what I’m referring to. My procedure is to use an aim point people are familiar with but at round-out I power up and stay in ground effect, about 2-3 feet off the ground, to expedite my trip to the other end of the runway where I live. If anyone is behind me I announce it as “9DE on Final, full stop, air taxiing to the south end for parking”. Technically correct or not, I suspect most fixed wing pilots would understand what I’m doing - and know I won’t be taxiing slowly for the last 3000 feet and interfering with their arrival. But if there’s a more precise term, I’m open to it.

/Ed

#### Philbennett

##### Junior Member
Ed it is entirely sensible. Landing so long means the decent profile seems odd to others in the pattern and landing on the numbers to endure a long taxi achieves what?

I know what you mean and fly the same. I also call it hover taxi in the absence of another term. I have also been educated with some high power, nose high attitude, poor vision, less control <40mph affair which I could see less point to.

#### JEFF TIPTON

##### Senior Member
We will assume the gyro has a radio: I would recommend that when landing long to announce that you are landing lond and possibly add which taxiway you planning to exit on if known.

#### DavePA11

##### Active Member
I agree with wasp too about flying normal pattern. It’s very hard for planes to see gyros in the pattern, and I have found many planes often fly upwind to check out unfamiliar runways before landing.

Not all aircraft have radios in uncontrolled airports so don’t assume everyone in the air can hear you. Especially gliders if they are operating from the airport you plane to land at. The tow plane has a long rope hanging off of it when it comes back from towing a glider up so don’t get under it by flying lower in the pattern. They fly fast too to get down for next tow so can get distracted easily.

#### Vance

##### Gyroplane CFI
EdL;n1141977 said:
“In my view, gyros simply do not "air taxi" any more than they hover, and 65 mph is way, way too fast to consider it to be any form of "taxi". Landing long is not the same thing.”

While I get the point, I personally do see a distinction between “landing long” (where one either intentionally picks a different aim point and round-out point down the field or where they unintentionally float well past their intended touchdown point) and what I’m referring to. My procedure is to use an aim point people are familiar with but at round-out I power up and stay in ground effect, about 2-3 feet off the ground, to expedite my trip to the other end of the runway where I live. If anyone is behind me I announce it as “9DE on Final, full stop, air taxiing to the south end for parking”. Technically correct or not, I suspect most fixed wing pilots would understand what I’m doing - and know I won’t be taxiing slowly for the last 3000 feet and interfering with their arrival. But if there’s a more precise term, I’m open to it.

/Ed
At my home field (SMX) the tower simply calls it landing long.

My T hangar is almost a mile from the threshold so I am simply landing long.

If they want me to fly directly to my taxiway they will ask me to make a short approach and exit at taxiway_____.

They just want to know how long the runway is tied up.

At SMX once you are over the threshold you own the runway until you have crossed the hold short line.

They need to have three thousand feet separation for light singles and the full runway for jets.

During Bensen days at Wauchula some people were not getting across the hold short line as they spooled down. As far as the FAA is concerned the runway is in use till all of the aircraft is across the hold short line..

#### Vance

##### Gyroplane CFI
Good point Jeff, at a busy non towered airport people are trying to time things and the more they know the better. I feel anything outside of a normal fixed wing procedure should be articulated.

I feel the call "clear of runway______ at taxiway ______ is also very important.

#### Vance

##### Gyroplane CFI
That is a good reminder Dave. A radio is not required.

Also a good reminder about tow planes too.

Santa Ynez has glider operations and they use opposite pattern and land short of the paved field. It can be very confusing for someone unfamiliar who has not done good flight planning.

#### WaspAir

##### Supreme Allied Gyro CFI
Vance;n1141974 said:
At several airports ATC has told me that I cannot hover taxi to self-serve and it sometimes takes several calls to get them to understand I have wheels and can taxi with the rotor stopped.
. . .

Ground people often want me to pull up and park with the rotor still spinning.
That's a little strange. I hover taxi my Bell up to fuel pumps all the time, and it offers no more risk of collision (and not much more blast) than pulling up with a wide span low wing twin engine airplane. Perhaps they are worried about the wash disturbing others if the fueling spot is crowded.

With my old Sikorsky on quad wheels I would ask for surface taxi and it was always understood and never refused (surface taxi, by the way, done with flat collective doesn't stir up the air too badly). At busy fuel stops I would shut down very close by, brake the rotor, pull out the tow bar, wait my turn, and drag it the last little distance, reversing the process after fueling. I can do the same with the Bell if I have my ground handling wheels in the cargo rack but the shut down and start up take longer with the turbocharged engine and no rotor brake.

My old J-2 also had no rotor brake, but there wasn't much if any energy left in the blades by the time I got near parking, and the disc always stayed high and level with that rotor system. The A&S 18A has a decent rotor brake, and on exiting the runway I usually pause on the taxiway after passing the lines and stop the rotor before proceeding (airplane pilots often do a "clean up" there, retracting flaps, switching to ground frequency, etc. so the procedure fits in well). I prefer to have the blades stopped before approaching any area where there might be pedestrians around.

#### Vance

##### Gyroplane CFI
Fox field in Lancaster (WJF) and San Luis Obispo (SBP) both discourage a hover taxi to self serve. I have run into it other places too.

Apparently SMX doesn't have a problem with it as there were two Robinson Helicopters at self-serve as a taxied out for my last flight.

Santa Ynez (IZA) a non-towered airport discourages it too.

#### EdL

##### Comm Rotor Gyro, ASEL
Sorry - sounds like I stirred up some confusion with my comments about “air taxiing”. Sounds like “landing long” is probably the most accurate description. No way/no how do I do this anywhere but directly over the runway (i.e. NEVER over a taxiway - at 40+mph - and never over grass between taxiways, etc.) and I really only do it when it makes the most sense for the situation, such as at my home field, where I need to get to my taxiway one way or the other with minimal disruption to others, either in the gyro or my Warrior.

#### Vance

##### Gyroplane CFI

As you can see there are some divergent language and techniques.

You have a high level of involvement in aviation and I value your opinion.

You think about things that don't align.

​​​​​​​Most things in aviation have to do with the judgment of the pilot in command for the best way to manage the situation.

I have found very few things are black and white and often the language of aviation can further the confusion.

Sometimes a different perspective may change the way I do things because I had not thought of it from that perspective.

I am always looking for ways to manage things better.

Gyroplanes are hard to see and often slower than the flow of fixed wing traffic so I work to and look for ways to mitigate those challenges.

#### Kolibri

##### FW and Gyros
Recently in a discussion about how to fly at a non-towered airport and avoid the flow of fixed wing traffic per AC 90-66B...
As I showed here, Advisory Councils are not regulatory. They haven't the force of law.
Besides, AC 90-66B mistakenly specified
"gyrocopters" (a nonexistent FAA aircraft type) when the relevant law covered helicopters (and not gyroplanes).

Vance was/is incorrect. Gyroplanes are not required to avoid the flow of fixed-wing traffic.

...someone recommended flying at 500 feet above the ground closer to the runway so they can still glide to the runway if the engine goes quiet.
I am that "someone", although grossly misquoted by Vance (as usual). What I wrote was this:

However, I think the case can be made for tighter and lower traffic patterns in gyros, especially by competent pilots showing ATC what is possible.
I've been cleared for inside 500' AGL patterns and to land on taxiways. This was to stay out of the way of faster FW traffic on final.
That tower had seen me land my RAF often enough there to appreciate what a gyro can do.

Vance seems to have this relationship at his home airport, so perhaps that's what was on his mind as he misquoted the CFR?
They felt if they were five hundred feet above the ground and flew the downwind 1,500 feet out they could land on the runway if the engine went quiet with a three to one glide ratio.
No, I did NOT claim such. What I wrote was quite clear for those who can accurately process the English language:

Vance, I mentioned a 500' and tighter pattern.
With an assumed L/D of 3/1, a "tight pattern" should be no more than 1500 feet from the runway.
That is not the same thing as saying that 1500 feet would be enough, as I made quite clear with the next sentence:

When I fly such a tight pattern, it is well within 1500 feet, and usually within 1000 feet.
There is no safety issue.
I'm laughing to myself about all this now, because I recall composing that text and wondering if it were really necessary
to insert all sorts of caveats about reaction time, clearing terrain, etc. No, I decided, because my point was obviously so
generic and nonspecific to pilot/gyro/airport/conditions that not even Vance would try to peck it death with hypothetical details.

That's the last time I'll give him such unwarranted credit.

From there, he went on to create such a blatantly specious straw man scenario that it insults gyro pilots.
For example, he plugs in a 4 second reaction time (332 feet!) followed by a leisurely wide standard rate turn (real gyronaut stuff there!).
(He neglected to further include a 40kt headwind toward the runway, lol.)

Vance, I'm actually embarrassed for you on this one.
You've a bizarre fixation with trying to find error in everything I post, and not owning up to your own misunderstandings along the way.

____________

My recommendation based on my experience and judgment is to fly a closer pattern (1,500 feet from the runway centerline) at pattern altitude...

Wouldn't such a gyro be vulnerable to a mid-air with a FW turning base from the outside?

As for me, if I'm going to be close pattern, I want to be lower than pattern altitude. As WaspAir put it:

As to visibility, when flying a closer pattern I also fly it a bit lower. My intention is for the pilots on downwind to have me in their line of sight when looking toward the runway.

But, as I mentioned before, all of this "avoiding the flow of fixed-wing traffic" is moot.
It's not required for gyroplanes, but it is for helicopters.

Regards,
Kolibri

#### WaspAir

##### Supreme Allied Gyro CFI
Kolibri;n1142083 said:
Wouldn't such a gyro be vulnerable to a mid-air with a FW turning base from the outside?

If you're flying a closer pattern, you should expect to fly a much closer-in base leg as well, turning long before any FW pilot would. I often turn abeam the numbers, while the typical FW pilot is just then adding flap, throttling back, applying carb heat, etc., and waiting for a roughly 45 degree angle to the numbers before turning in. I anticipate a closer pattern on both downwind and base, not just a long skinny pattern with a tight downwind. Glide range from a typical FW base leg is pretty sketchy for most gyros, so I don't want to be way out there.
Kolibri;n1142083 said:
But, as I mentioned before, all of this "avoiding the flow of fixed-wing traffic" is moot.
It's not required for gyroplanes, but it is for helicopters.
It's not even remotely moot.

From under my lawyer cap, it is obvious that the non-regulatory nature of an advisory circular will be of little value to you if it all goes pear shaped and you have to explain yourself in an enforcement action and/or to a jury in a civil action for damages. The use by the FAA of an informal term "gyrocopter" instead of the preferred "gyroplane" does not serve to negate the meaning of the AC, and no ALJ, magistrate, or Article III judge would discard it on that basis. As part of the 91.103 preamble catch-all preflight action requirement to be familiar with all available information concerning the flight, you should know about the AC and not reject the FAA's wisdom merely because you think "gyrocopter" is not the best term. They have advised you, and you ignore their advice at your peril. "I know better than the FAA" is unlikely to persuade a judicial officer.

#### Kolibri

##### FW and Gyros
WaspAir, show us anything in the Federal Aviation Regulations that requires a gyroplane to avoid the flow of fixed-wing traffic, such as this section for helicopters:

AIM Section 3. Airport Operations
4-3-2-b
Pilots approaching to land in a helicopter must avoid the flow of fixed−wing traffic.
FAR 91.126(b)(2) - "Each pilot of a helicopter or powered parachute must avoid the flow of fixed-wing aircraft."
§91.129 Operations in Class D airspace.
(f)(2) Avoid the flow of fixed-wing aircraft, if operating a helicopter.

The use by the FAA of an informal term "gyrocopter" instead of the preferred "gyroplane" does not serve to negate the meaning of the AC...
Because there is no class of "gyrocopter" in the category of Rotorcraft, it arguably would touch on "void for vagueness".
Did the AC author mean gyroplane or helicopter? How is the reader to know?

Only the helicopter is so required by the FAR, and it's the FAR which govern, not the Advisory Circulars.

________

If you're flying a closer pattern, you should expect to fly a much closer-in base leg as well, turning long before any FW pilot would.
For your closer patterns, do you fly them at pattern altitude, or lower?

Regards,
Kolibri

#### WaspAir

##### Supreme Allied Gyro CFI
There are a whole host of things that are not required by the FARs for which non-compliance will nonetheless result in suspension of privileges or adverse jury verdicts, especially when there is behavior contrary to explicit expert advice provided by the FAA in a published Advisory Circular on the particular topic. In lay terms, you should expect any judicial officer to accept it as more than just a "best practice" and likely to see it as setting a minimum standard of care for a reasonable pilot.

"Void for vagueness" is a constitutional concept applied to poorly drafted criminal statutes that fail to spell out the proscribed behavior in sufficient detail or precision to provide notice to the would-be offender that one should not engage in that conduct. We're not talking about criminal statutes here, and the concept doesn't apply.

I would also venture that you are the only person in the gyroplane community who would find any ambiguity in the use of gyrocopter in this context. It is abundantly clear from the context and structure of the AC that separate provisions are made for operations for helicopters and operations for gyroplanes in that paragraph, despite the terminology chosen. In the legal world, one would refer to your gyrocopter-might-not mean-gyroplane argument as a distinction without a difference.

My advice to you is to take the FAA's advice more seriously, and not look for hyper-technical reasons to go your own way. The success rate with such arguments is pitifully poor in my experience, which I daresay likely greatly exceeds yours.