# Is this exam question on traffic patterns wrong?

I just don't know the difference between Left-hand traffic and Right-hand traffic.

I thought Left-hand traffic uses when land to the East and right-hand traffic for when land to the west. Is anyone help me out?

Also, I got a question from the book about traffic patterns and I think the question is wrong... If above all things are true.

• The trick to decoding the segmented circle is to understand it shows only base-to-final turns. Commented Mar 19, 2022 at 15:22
• For left-hand traffic you make left hand turns no matter how the runway is oriented.
– Jim
Commented Mar 19, 2022 at 16:09
• The north/south (360/180) rectangular patterns are to the west of the field, the east/west (90/270) patterns are to the north of the field. Left pattern for 360 landing. Right pattern for 270 landing. Commented Mar 19, 2022 at 19:05

The above illustration from the PHAK should help you out. It also includes an inset of the segmented circle.

The "traffic pattern indicator" on each "landing runway indicator" shows you the base leg in relation to the runway. (See image below for the PHAK's terminology.)

If you're making left turns, it's a left pattern, and that's the standard pattern. An easy way to remember it: looking out the pilot's [left] window allows for a better view, making it standard.

Your assumption that left/right is east/west is wrong; you'll find many runways oriented east/west (just like the illustration above), so it can't be that. The question is not wrong.

Click for higher resolution

• One minor point - the long arm of the "L" represents the final approach, not the crosswind leg (which is usually parallel to the base leg). Commented Mar 19, 2022 at 14:01
• @Tevildo: thanks for catching the error and sorry I didn't quite get what you were saying, it should be fixed now.
– user14897
Commented Mar 19, 2022 at 15:25

Left and right refer to the direction of turns in the traffic patterns. In a Left hand traffic pattern, there are only left hand turns, and from the pilots perspective the runway is always on his/her/their left hand side. In a right hand traffic pattern, it's all turns are to the right, and the runways is to the pilot's on right.

Using left or right hand pattern has nothing to do with the direction of the runway.

Left hand pattern (all turns to the left) is the standard. It is the normal way to fly a traffic pattern if there is no specific reason to fly a right hand pattern (all turns to the right).

Most airfields allow both patterns. Reasons to prohibit either of patterns might be such as noise abatement, high terrain or other obstacles on one side of the runway.

• I'm not so sure about the claim that "most airfields allow both patterns." At nontowered fields there is always a "correct" pattern - left by default, right traffic if so specified in the A/FD or by the traffic pattern indicator. At towered fields the local controller will assign the pattern based on local procedures. So you're never really free to choose. (That said, I've never heard of enforcement action for flying the wrong pattern unless you cause an accident... usually the worst that happens is a snarky base operator snips at you over the UNICOM.) Commented Mar 19, 2022 at 15:28
• @TypeIA oh, this is interesting, I thought any pattern is allowed unless specifically prohibited, and right pattern always requires clearance, or announcement if no ATC is provided. Commented Mar 19, 2022 at 17:02
• AIM 4-3-4(b) 5. c. "When approaching for landing, all turns must be made to the left unless a traffic pattern indicator indicates that turns should be made to the right." Commented Mar 19, 2022 at 19:31
• Thanks @TypeIA, my memory seems to have failed me 👍 Commented Mar 20, 2022 at 8:25
• @Jpe61 Note that left turns are by regulation, it’s not just in the AIM. See 91.126(b) for class G, which is referenced in the following sections for other airspace classes too. Commented Mar 20, 2022 at 22:52