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I fly at Las Cruces International (KLRU) which is in an area with high winds (20 knots or more). My flight instructor wants me to fly the traffic pattern according to the crosswind direction on takeoff. So if the crosswind on take off is from the right he wants me to fly right traffic, if the crosswind is from the left he wants me to fly left traffic.

I understand the rationale for this. When you are flying into the wind you have more airspeed and if you suddenly turn out of the wind you lose airspeed and risk stalling. In fact we have had accidents here where a pilot turned out of the wind on takeoff and stalled because they suddenly lost airspeed.

I have never heard of any guidance in my ground school courses on changing the traffic pattern based on crosswind direction. So my question is how would an FAA Designated Pilot Examiner interpret me using a non-standard traffic pattern if I fly the traffic pattern according to the crosswind direction? Could I get in trouble for flying a non-standard pattern even though it would technically be safer to fly into the wind?

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    $\begingroup$ I dunno much about this theory. What will happen with your airspeed when you turn downwind or base ? you just made sure you will approach final from a base leg with a tailwind, risk overshooting the final and tightening the final turn $\endgroup$
    – Radu094
    Sep 10 '18 at 17:52
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    $\begingroup$ Your instructor is completely wrong. Your airspeed is the same no matter which direction you are flying.(Look at your airspeed indicator!) Your groundspeed varies depending on the wind direction. At a non-towered field you fly the published direction. If none is published, you fly left traffic. At a towered field you fly whichever direction they tell you. Your DPE would probably fail you. $\endgroup$
    – JScarry
    Sep 10 '18 at 18:01
  • $\begingroup$ @Radu: The airspeed would go down if you fly downwind or base of course. However by the time we turn downwind we are taught that we should at least have an airspeed of 85 MPH in the Piper Cherokee. So we need to accelerate before we turn downwind. $\endgroup$
    – DLH
    Sep 10 '18 at 18:05
  • $\begingroup$ @JScarry: What you are saying is not intuitive to me. Could you please explain this more in an answer? If you turn out of the wind wouldn't you lose that airspeed? Isn't that why we takeoff into the wind to take advantage of that airspeed? $\endgroup$
    – DLH
    Sep 10 '18 at 18:10
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    $\begingroup$ @DLH Hopefully, you were taught to fly a specific airspeed when on downwind, base, final, short final, and in the flare. The airspeed you fly only depends on the aircraft and not the wind speed. Groundspeed varies depending on the direction of the wind and you compensate for it with your crab angle. Your ground track should be the same no matter what the wind is like, but the time it takes for each leg and the direction the nose of the plane is heading will vary with the wind. If the winds are very gusty you should add some airspeed on final and maybe not use the final notch of flaps. $\endgroup$
    – JScarry
    Sep 10 '18 at 19:40
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It is NOT normal to pick the pattern (right/left) based on crosswind.

As JScarry pointed out in a comment, "At a non-towered field you fly the published direction. If none is published, you fly left traffic. At a towered field you fly whichever direction they tell you." That's how you pick the pattern.

When you are flying into the wind you have more airspeed and if you suddenly turn out of the wind you lose airspeed and risk stalling

This is flat out wrong.

To prove this, find a day where the winds aloft are high, then practice flying constant bank angle circles at altitude while at Minimum Controllable Airspeed. If your theory is correct, you should consistently stall whenever the nose of the plane is pointing downwind. (Hint: it won't)

For a second experiment, on a day with a strong crosswind, watch your airspeed indicator as you make your first turn after take off. Try turning both into the wind and away from the wind. (i.e., try both a left & right pattern). The airspeed indicator shouldn't show any difference.

Once you are in the air, the only speed your wing cares about is airspeed. The wing doesn't know if it's a headwind or a tailwind.

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You crab left/left aileron low for a left crosswind and crab right/right aileron low for a right crosswind when you're landing. In both cases you want the wind coming from the front. Landing left wing low might lead to better visibility if piloting from the left.

You should practice to be competent on both sides.

If the wind is shifting from crosswind to a tailwind, you land on the opposite runway. You don't land with a tailwind.

Downwind, however: The quartering tailwind on downwind might be blowing you away from the runway, or it might be blowing you towards the runway - deal with it. You don't select left downwind or right downwind based on that - you might find yourself in helicopter traffic that way, or maybe uncomcortably close to obstructions. Maybe you can get away with most of the time, but it will bite you on the ass someday.

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