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How do I determine the VFR pattern altitude at an airport? Can I find it on a sectional?

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In April 2013, the FAA's Charting Group met to discuss this question. The standard pattern used to be 800 ft AGL, and the Chart Supplement (formerly called Airport/Facility Directory or A/FD) was inconsistent in listing them. Ultimately they decided:

Chris Criswell, AJV-22, reported that, per ACF recommendation, all traffic pattern altitudes, standard and non-standard, will be added into NASR (the AFD) for all airports. This will be a day forward implementation beginning in July 2014.

Some other places the TPA is recommended to be 1000 feet AGL:

Advisory_Circular AC90-66A

c. It is recommended that airplanes observe a 1000 foot above ground level (AGL) traffic pattern altitude. Large and turbine powered airplanes should enter the traffic pattern at an altitude of 1,500 feet AGL or 500 feet above the established pattern altitude. A pilot may vary the size of the traffic pattern depending on the aircraft's performance characteristics.

The Chart Supplement (A/FD) will typically list the Traffic Pattern Altitude (TPA) if it is non-standard (not 1000 ft/1500 ft AGL)

The FAA's Airplane Flying Handbook says

The traffic pattern altitude is usually 1,000 feet above the elevation of the airport.

Now the Chart Supplement (A/FD) will be the definitive guide!

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  • $\begingroup$ Hmm, I can't seem to find KAKR's TPA. Would that mean it is 800ft AGL? $\endgroup$ – flyingfisch Oct 9 '14 at 18:42
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    $\begingroup$ @flyingfisch no I think it would be 1000 ft AGL. Everything used to be 800 AGL, but as you can see from AC90-66A and the AFH, if unpublished, it's recommended to do a 1000 ft AGL TPA, which would be 2067 MSL for KAKR. $\endgroup$ – Canuk Oct 11 '14 at 0:15
  • $\begingroup$ Ah ok, understood. thank you :) $\endgroup$ – flyingfisch Oct 11 '14 at 1:07
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No, it's not on a sectional. The Traffic Pattern Altitude (TPA) can be found in your A/FD.

Edit: I just double-checked and it's not on all airports in the A/FD. I would assume that if it's not listed it's 1000' AGL, but not sure why it's listed on some and not others. When it is there it'll be on the 2nd line after fuel. It'll look something like this: TPA-1072(1000)

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In the UK, this information can be found in the AIS under Aerodrome information - specific and is not printed in charts.

The section on "Flight Procedures" for my local field specifies

Circuits (a) Standard overhead join. Variable circuits. Fixed wing circuit height 1000 ft QFE.

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For a non-standard traffic pattern altitude, you will be provided an altitude, and if it's a standard traffic pattern altitude (1000' agl), then it will not display an altitude or it will be blank as I've seen before.

e.g. KMBS does not display an altitude but TPA is 1000' agl

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