The airfield I learned to fly helicopters at is in uncontrolled airspace and has an air/ground radio service only. It has a main runway, 07/25 and a secondary runway only used in high x-winds, 13/31.

All fixed wing circuits are to the North so fixed wings will fly right hand circuits when operating Westerly and left hand circuits when operating on the Easterlies. Helicopter circuits are always to the South so the reverse is true. This works well and keeps fixed wing traffic separated from helicopters.

Therefore, there is no "dead side" since the Southern leg is the downwind for rotary and the Northern leg is downwind for fixed wing.

Once, when preparing for take off from runway 25, I heard a call from a fixed wing announcing they were about 7 miles to the East and would "join dead side". The A/G operator reminded the pilot, who clearly wasn't one for reading the relevant publications, that there is no dead side and advised them to make a standard overhead join. We were operating to the West so my circuit would be left hand to the South.

The next call I heard from them was on the downwind leg when the pilot announced "descending dead side". The operator reminded them that there was no dead side and more insistently instructed an overhead join.

I am now at 1,000 feet on my downwind with an aircraft I suspect is in front of me heading towards me and descending! Referring to the plate, I am heading roughly East to the South of the road marked "A303" at the bottom of the plate.

I took 3 actions; I made a position call of "downwind South", increased my height to 1,200 (I figured they were likely to have joined at 1,000 feet) and switched on the landing light.

I can't find any rules of the air or rules of thumb to help in this situation. Are there any? Is there anything else I should have done to help to avoid a conflict?

I never did see the other aircraft and I knew from the pilots actions and their lousy use of the radio that they were inexperienced or incompetent and I didn't go looking for them when I was back on the ground to "share a little wisdom" with them.

  • $\begingroup$ I think a few more details would help make this question clearer. Which country and regulations are you talking about, I guess the UK? What were the actual runway numbers (so we can visualize what happened)? $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Nov 19, 2015 at 13:25
  • $\begingroup$ @Pondlife Thanks. I edited in the runway numbers and also added the caa-uk-regulations tag but since this is class G, VFR only and an uncontrolled airfield, I doubt that the formal regulations cover it. $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    Nov 19, 2015 at 14:56
  • $\begingroup$ There are no rules for what to do when others don't play by the rules. It all comes down to 'good airmanship' and you seem to have it under your belt. $\endgroup$
    – DeltaLima
    Nov 19, 2015 at 23:00

1 Answer 1


In the USA, RW aircraft are supposed to avoid the flow of FW traffic and FW traffic have the right of way for landing.

So I would have descended to 500ft instead of climbing. Slight differences in altimeters make 1,200 and 1,000ft too close for comfort. But 500ft AGL (noise abatement be damned in a safety situation) is a perfectly acceptable altitude in a heli.

Also, I would have adjusted my downwind so that I was fairly close to the runway where airplanes are rarely found.

So now I have both vertical and horizontal separation, and I am in a continuous position to land, at my convenience.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Thanks for this, and adding your thoughts into mine, I believe that this answers the question. The first comment is not applicable since there should have been no FW traffic where I was. However, descending would have been better. My thinking at the time (all done in the space of a few seconds!) was that the FW would be descending and I would therefore climb but that is probably why I didn't see them. As we all know, spotting traffic above is easier than below. I could also have adjusted my horizontal spacing and moving towards the runway makes complete sense. $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    Nov 20, 2015 at 14:51
  • $\begingroup$ "there should have been no FW traffic" the right-of-way rules (in the US, at least) don't have anything to say about who is supposed to be where, only what you're supposed to do if there is a conflict. $\endgroup$
    – rbp
    Nov 20, 2015 at 19:38
  • $\begingroup$ My point is that under UK regulations,CAP 032, the AIP, explicitly states that there is no deadside and that FW traffic should use an overhead join. Should there be a reportable incident, which there would have been if there had been an airprox, the CAP is enough to sustain a prosecution. In that respect, the FW should not have been there. I was not "in the flow" of FW traffic. $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    Nov 20, 2015 at 20:54
  • $\begingroup$ @Simon different countries different regs! $\endgroup$
    – rbp
    Nov 20, 2015 at 20:57
  • $\begingroup$ Of course, which is why I tagged it as UK CAA. $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    Nov 20, 2015 at 21:01

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