I am a student pilot with around 30 hours of flying right now. I am yet to solo and I am currently in the final stages of closed circuit practice.

Overall, my pattern work is good. However, maintaining the perfect "rectangular" circuit gets tricky for me when facing strong quarterly crosswinds (10 knots gusting 16).

I guess its the visualizing the wind that really gets me confused. I set the heading bug to sort reference where the wind is coming from which helps a lot.

But just wondering if I could get more tips on this. Anyone else had the same issue during their student days?

I fly a Cessna 172S.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ If the problem is keeping the pattern rectangular you should work on ground reference maneuvers - turns about a point and S-turns across the road. Then go out and find an area where there's a set of rectangular streets (or at least one straight street that you use to simulate the runway) preferably on a windy day. Then practice flying directly over the rectangular ground path. Don't worry about the wind or your actual heading, just steer to keep the plane over the path. That should help ingrain the response. $\endgroup$
    – Gerry
    Commented Dec 9, 2016 at 17:04

1 Answer 1


Try visualizing the pattern.

In your mind's eye, overlay the airspace around the airport with the track that you want your flight to take, visualizing all sections of the traffic pattern from your point of view as you fly. Now check to see if there are visual references on the ground eg buildings, roads, parks, golf courses, etc. which align with this pattern you are visualizing and use them as additional aid for pattern legs and turn points. If the airplane drifts off this track, adjust your crab angle and/or your rate of turn in order to track correctly.

As mentioned above, ground reference maneuvers such as rectangular patterns, turns about a point, S-turns etc are very useful and may be good basic practice for training yourself to visualize the pattern in space.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Thanks sounds good! I will discuss this with my instructor. Thanks a lot everyone! $\endgroup$
    – MEA
    Commented Dec 10, 2016 at 3:02

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