I'm in the left downwind at my favorite non-towered airport. Just while I'm making the turn to base, I hear a radio call on CTAF: "Such-and-such Traffic, Medevac 123, holding short runway 31." They don't make any requests or say anything else; they merely announce that they're there, waiting for me to land and get clear.

Since they're a medevac flight, should I abort my approach and let them take off immediately, or is it fine if I simply land and vacate the runway as soon as practical?

If I abort the approach, what's the best way to do that, given that I'm on the base leg now? Continue past the runway and make an upwind leg? Just turn right and exit the pattern completely, and then come back once the medevac flight is out of the way?

And whatever the right thing to do is, what radio call should I make? I assume that there's something more standard than "Medevac 123, Diamond 456, I'm just gonna continue past the runway and make an upwind leg so that you can take off right away."

(This happened in a 2-seater I was riding in today. In this case, the pilot decided to simply land and get clear of the runway quickly.)

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    $\begingroup$ The best thing you can do is not be one of their customers. $\endgroup$ Dec 3, 2017 at 4:03

1 Answer 1


The most obvious thing to me would be to just talk to them:

Medevac 123, this is the Diamond on base for 31, do you need to expedite your departure?

If they say no, then just continue and land as normal. If they say yes, then I'd get out of their way:

Medevac 123, roger, we'll extend our base and fly a wide upwind to let you out

I wouldn't worry about standard phraseology too much, the critical point is to make sure you both understand each other and if there's no well-established phrase for what you need then just say whatever seems clearest.

Extending base to upwind has the advantage that it keeps you in the pattern so you can see what's going on as the medevac flight departs and you don't waste too much time going around the pattern again. (Although unless I have an emergency of my own I'm more than happy to make whatever detour is necessary to help out a medevac flight.)

Turning out right puts the pattern behind you and if you turn too early then you're potentially turning into other traffic on a long final, so it wouldn't be my first choice. But I don't think there's any standard way to break off from base and there are lots of possible variables (terrain, traffic, airspace etc.) so it's up to the pilot to decide what's safest at that particular moment.

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    $\begingroup$ This is good advice. I used to fly fixed wing under the Medevac callsign; in my experience most flights were nowhere near so time critical that we would need another aircraft to go around to give way to us. Such is generally the nature of fixed wing Medevac; rotary wing Medevac might well be different, but is unlikely to lead to this scenario either. $\endgroup$
    – J W
    Dec 3, 2017 at 2:29
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    $\begingroup$ From a phraseology point of view, I would alter the second call: too many details. Something like: "making orbits to let you out" or "extending circuit to let you out" I think would fit better. $\endgroup$
    – Mayou36
    Dec 3, 2017 at 10:50
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    $\begingroup$ I ran into this situation a couple of times. 1st time, as passenger, my pilot took this approach, medevac said "No need, continue as normal". 2 other times I took same approach myself . Again a "no need" response on the 2nd time and on the 3rd I got "Not strictly needed, but would appreciate if you could". Made another circle and got a thank you from the medevac after they had taken off. I later ran into the medevac pilot and he said they had small girl with a broken leg. No medical hurry, but she and her mother (also onboard) were quite nervous (1st flight). The sooner it was over the better. $\endgroup$
    – Tonny
    Dec 3, 2017 at 16:02
  • $\begingroup$ What path exactly would be an "extended base to upwind"? $\endgroup$ Dec 4, 2017 at 22:47
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    $\begingroup$ @Czechnology Assuming it's a left-hand pattern I meant to continue on base past/through final and then turn left onto the upwind leg. I think most people would understand it like that, at least in the US, but maybe there's a better way to put it. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Dec 5, 2017 at 0:08

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