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Ugh... I'm beating myself up as I feel I made a pretty serious mistake over the weekend. I'm a PPL trying to build up XC hours trying to work towards my instrument. Over the weekend I did a short XC to an extremely remote desert airport which is a nice little flight. I do flight following all the way there, uneventful. 15 miles out I get the ASOS and it says winds calm. After canceling flight following, I switch over to the CTAF.

This is where I started to get a little overwhelmed and I start making mistakes. I had waited a little longer to start my descent so I was approaching a little faster than usual. I have made this flight several times before and the winds are usually from the east so I planned my normal pattern entry to cross the field, make a right turn and enter the left pattern for the easterly runway. As I'm approaching I'm using my standard communications; someone on the ground radios to say the winds are actually out of the west and at at least 10 knots as the windsock is almost straight out. At that same moment, another pilot radioed announcing they were 3 miles to the west and inbound to land. For some reason this last minute information really overloaded me and I just went into autopilot. For some reason, I still just had "left pattern" baked into my brain. Instead of continuing to cross the field I entered at a 45 into a left pattern for the westerly runway. (sigh). I fly it normally and on final the traffic that was a few miles out now announces they are on a right downwind. My heart sinks. I realized my mistake, and although I am mortified, I decide to continue the landing and go on with my trip back to my base.

Afterward, I debriefed myself trying to isolate what happened, and how to prevent this kind of mistake again. I take safety and procedure very seriously. I shudder to think what might have happened if there was a NORDO in the pattern...

My question is should I be worried? I've never made this type of mistake before and am frankly expecting a call from the FSDO. It's not a populated area and there is very little traffic there but still...

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  • $\begingroup$ How do you cross the field and then make a right turn to enter a left-hand pattern? $\endgroup$ – MikeY May 6 at 17:00
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    $\begingroup$ This is a regulation that pilots often deliberately break for navigational convenience. As long as you don't hit anyone or piss off the neighbors with noise, nobody cares. Keep your eyes out the window! $\endgroup$ – pericynthion May 6 at 17:01
  • $\begingroup$ Re: the pattern. I was trained the proper approach is to cross the field, make a wide right 270 that puts you on a 45 degree angle to enter left downwind instead of just turning left into the pattern. $\endgroup$ – addennis May 6 at 17:26
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    $\begingroup$ Thank you all for your feedback! re: the remote airport, it is still a large airport which is towered during the week, however, my base is an extremely busy airport so, by contrast, I guess it seems extremely remote. It is usually pretty empty. re: the ASRS, I have gone ahead and submitted one, whether or not I am reported and it protects me, submitting it helped me type out exactly what I learned and what I'll be doing to ensure it doesn't happen again. $\endgroup$ – addennis May 6 at 18:10
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    $\begingroup$ So he was on a right downwind because the traffic pattern is displaced to the North always? Left hand for (for example) RWY 09 and right hand for RWY 27? Is your concern overflying some airspace that is not part of the pattern, or a conflict with the other aircraft? If it was the other aircraft, did you coordinate with him for one of you to extend the downwind and sequence behind the other? That'd be the thing to do. Otherwise, no harm - no foul is what I say. $\endgroup$ – MikeY May 6 at 20:24
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Don't worry about it too much. Are you specifically asking what are the odds of getting a phone call about this? I'm not sure this is a really good question for Stack Exchange. If you are really worried about it, fill out one of those mistake-reporting forms just in case -- https://asrs.arc.nasa.gov/

Newish/ overloaded pilots at unfamiliar airports have been known to overfly the field, look at the wind sock, and then proceed to set up a landing in exactly the wrong direction. It happens. Try to be aware of when you are getting over-loaded and double-check yourself.

Live and learn-- you lived, so learn.

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  • $\begingroup$ You are probably correct this is the wrong forum, but I don't really have a community in aviation so I'm just looking for resources where I can. Thank you for taking the time to reply. $\endgroup$ – addennis May 6 at 17:33

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