While turning from the 45˚ to the downwind leg for a downwind pattern landing in a Cessna 182, a Cheyenne was calling 5 miles out on a GPS approach for a straight in landing. Clear day, both flying VFR, uncontrolled airport. He and I had been communicating for 5-6 minutes, and I called my base turn knowing I had entered the pattern well ahead of him and had time to land ahead of him. The Cheyenne pilot acknowledged me and was good with this.

Seconds before I touched down, I heard from a pilot evidently taxiing to take off from the same runway, "Dude ... you just cut off that Cheyenne ... you realize he's going about 4 times faster than you."

Now aside from his ignorance by not hearing the leadup conversation to our opposite direction approaches, when is a plane in a straight-on landing considered to have the right of way over one "in the pattern" and when, apart from communicating between pilots, is it proper regulation to land ahead, vs. extending the downwind leg and falling in behind him?

I was specifically trained that until you are within 4 miles, you are technically not on "final" during a straight-in approach ... but that common sense must prevail, so even if you reach the pattern first, it may be courteous and safer to allow a faster aircraft in ahead of you.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Assuming you were doing 50 knots in your Cessna 182, the Cheyenne would have been 200 knots on final......nope, I think that guy's accusation is unfounded. $\endgroup$
    – kevin
    Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 12:54

2 Answers 2


The Cheyenne would have been "cutting you off", if he hadn't worked it out with the aircraft in the pattern and maintained visual separation.

According to the AIM, 4-3-3, standard pattern entry at an uncontrolled airport is abeam the midpoint in the downwind.

  1. Enter pattern in level flight, abeam the midpoint of the runway, at pattern altitude. (1,000’ AGL is recommended pattern altitude unless established otherwise. . .)


  • $\begingroup$ Which was, naturally, my thinking, but I'm always more than happy to extend my downwind (if it's questionable) to a faster aircraft. It's a tad bit upsetting to hear someone indict you on the CTAF like they were dubbed the local aviation police. $\endgroup$
    – WildFlyer
    Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 11:34
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Sounds like nobody was even close to being in danger, so why get upset. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 11:41

Since you and the Cheyenne pilot had it worked out you are ok and you made a proper entrance to the pattern. However its worth mentioning that there is at least one right of way rule that could apply here (depending on the situation).

Sec. 91.113

(g) Landing. Aircraft, while on final approach to land or while landing, have the right-of-way over other aircraft in flight or operating on the surface, except that they shall not take advantage of this rule to force an aircraft off the runway surface which has already landed and is attempting to make way for an aircraft on final approach. When two or more aircraft are approaching an airport for the purpose of landing, the aircraft at the lower altitude has the right-of-way, but it shall not take advantage of this rule to cut in front of another which is on final approach to land or to overtake that aircraft.

If the situation were that the Cheyenne was at say 2,000 ft on his final approach (even 5 miles out) and you overflew the field at 2,500 and made a teardrop entrance to the 45 descending 1000ft. in the process (putting you at 1,500ft. (lets call this pattern altitude)). You would in turn potentially be in breach of 91.113 since you cut in beneath him.

However in this brief on un-towered operations the FAA states that it is common courtesy to extend your downwind leg in this situation

Courtesy Tip

If another aircraft is on a straight-in instrument approach in visual conditions and it will not greatly inconvenience you, consider extending your downwind and announce your intentions.

With that in mind, there is no hard rule about it so you are in the clear, the extension is a courtesy to the other aircraft and intended mostly for safety reasons.

On a slight tangent, at a towered airport its likely your downwind leg would have been extended by the controller (which is where the courtesy tip most likely stems from) to allow the Cheyenne to come in. If the guy on the ground flys out of towered fields a lot he may be accustom to this style of operations and assumed a rule was broken. This happened to me while on my downwind at a towered airport, a little beech jet entered on the ILS and my downwind was extended to allow him in. That plane was so fast he was on the ground and at the FBO before I turned base.


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