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I had always been taught to begin a descent from TPA abeam the touchdown point, even if tower tells me to follow another aircraft. Yesterday I flew with an instructor who did not want me to descend from TPA until abeam the aircraft I was following. I understand that I begin my base turn when the aircraft I am following is abeam my wing. I did not know to also wait until then to descend from TPA. It does make more sense to stay at TPA until this point but I can't find anything saying one way or the other.

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    $\begingroup$ Were you also extending your downwind, or did you turn in at the normal time? If you are extending your downwind then it makes sense to wait, if you are turning in normally this may mean that you are high on final. I assume that if you are "abeam the other aircraft" that you are extending? $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Apr 4 '16 at 13:01
  • $\begingroup$ Can you please clarify for me what TPA means? I don't think that's a term used where I'm from $\endgroup$ – Ben Apr 4 '16 at 21:18
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    $\begingroup$ Traffic pattern altitude $\endgroup$ – rbp Apr 4 '16 at 21:26
  • $\begingroup$ @rbp thanks. I've only ever heard it referred to as 'circuit height' here in Australia. $\endgroup$ – Ben Apr 4 '16 at 23:17
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    $\begingroup$ @Ben we Americans love our TLAs. $\endgroup$ – egid Apr 5 '16 at 1:10
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Every CFI I have ever flown with has a different procedure for when to descend. Its annoying. Think of it as descending to the runway when you are in a position to land. If you are not following another aircraft, then you can begin your descent abeam the threshold. If you are following another aircraft, then you should wait to descend until you are in a position to land as #2, which could be after you've already turned base or (long) final.

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