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 ...
The trick my CFI taught me is to use your Course Deviation Indicator or ADF to keep track of landings. After your first landing, bug a course of 010. After your second landing, bug 020. You can reach over and adjust the knob after every landing without having to juggle a pen and a notebook. It's still a manual step, though.
You could also use a product like ...
What is the correct way?
Is there a difference between controlled and uncontrolled airports? What about the procedure when approaching from other angles?
Well I'll address your second quesition first: There is ABSOLUTELY a difference between controlled and uncontrolled fields. At a controlled field you do what ATC tells you to do (and if there's any ...
Please don't use "Not in sight". Parts of radio transmissions, such as single words, can easily be cut off or missed, making it sound like you said "In sight". I commonly hear pilots use the phrase "Looking out" or something similar, which conveys a clear message: "I understood what you said, but I don't see the traffic yet".
ATC provides traffic ...
The other answers have provided some easy ways to increment your count without too much distraction, but if you are really "prone to forget [...] when things get busy" as you say, this might not be good enough. I would therefore recommend a solution which does not require any action on your side.
Most smartphones today have a pressure sensor. There ...
Actually, "stay in the pattern" is non-standard phraseology and shouldn't be used, even though it means the same thing as "closed traffic".
Specifying the direction isn't required but it is a good idea to ensure that everybody is thinking the same thing.
Typically it's phrased as "direct to the numbers" and means you should proceed in a straight line from your present position to where the runway numbers are painted on the pavement. This instruction can be issued to fixed-wing aircraft as well, but perhaps not from as wide a range of starting positions. It relieves you of any previous restrictions.
What I was taught that this meant was ...
... because they could not communicate with you, but they wanted you to not land on this pass (interval a mess, crossing traffic, winds maybe wrong, a dozen other things that might crop up) it was more or less "the runway will be ready for you if you take another lap in the pattern." This also gives them a bit of ...
The controller wants the base to have two distinct 90° turns, from downwind to base, and base to final. And not one continuous turn from downwind to final. And no shortcuts to be taken to shorten the downwind.
It means the base will be slightly longer, and the downwind more parallel to the runway.
The controller is buying time (delaying the arrival) to ...
Get a Tally Counter, and push the button once per landing. No batteries, nothing to fail, easy to use. Not much more you could ask for.
There are even options for mounted ones.
See AC 90-66A - RECOMMENDED ‘STANDARD TRAFFIC PATTERNS AND PRACTICES FOR AERONAUTICAL OPERATIONS AT AIRPORTS WITHOUT OPERATING CONTROL TOWERS for information about uncontrolled airport traffic patterns.
It includes the following which says that while the FAA recommends using the full pattern, it is not required:
7. GENERAL OPERATING PRACTICES.
Yes, it can happen, but it's pretty uncommon.
Airliners arrive at the destination airport having been sequenced by ARTCC ("Center") and Approach so that they are showing up in an orderly sequence, spaced out so that there is adequate room between them. They may be set up for an ILS, or they may see the field and accept a visual approach, but either way the ...
The recommended phraseology depends on the airport. If it's tower controlled then you're encouraged to use ATC's phraseology per JO 7110.65V
PHRASEOLOGY− LEFT/RIGHT (if required) CLOSED TRAFFIC APPROVED. REPORT
(position if required),
For uncontrolled airports we see this in the AIM (4-1-5):
Recommended UNICOM phraseologies:
I think one thing that does not get emphasized enough:
Pilots do not land airplanes!In fact, we try to keep the airplane flying as long as possible! We systematically rob the airplane of energy (energy from engine power, energy from airspeed, energy from altitude) until the plane can no longer fly, and settles gently on the runway.
But even as the plane is ...
They basically ask you to report it as a "memory jogger" for themselves so that they can do something when you call in (like clear you to land).
A standard airport traffic pattern is described in Chapter 7 of the Airplane Flying Handbook as:
The downwind leg is a course flown parallel to the landing runway, but
in a direction opposite to the intended ...
When flying into a towered airport, you will be given specific instructions, as per the ATC Handbook, Section 10, Arrival Procedures and Separation such as:
"make left traffic for runway 15"
"enter a right base for runway 15"
"make straight-in runway 15"
You can also request whatever you want, like: "Tower, Cessna 3-3-Lima, information bravo, requesting ...
I think there are two parts to your question: why do traffic patterns exist, and why do people fly around them in circles?
First, a huge amount of aviation effort goes into avoiding collisions, for obvious reasons. One part of that is making everyone behave as predictably as possible, so that you know what to expect from other pilots and where to look for ...
As PIC if you don't feel comfortable entering congested airspace at a beehive airport, dont enter it. It's that simple. Divert to another airfield and attempt to return to the original airfield when the congestion abates.
If you anticipate high density traffic at an untowered airport, you should let other pilots know your intentions on the CTAF well in ...
This topic can generate a lot of discussion as you've noted, but I think there are some generally accepted conclusions.
The simplest case is joining the pattern at a controlled airport because the procedure in any country is the same: follow ATC's instructions (and ask if they aren't clear!).
For unmanned airports the picture is less clear-cut, at least in ...
The Cheyenne would have been "cutting you off", if he hadn't worked it out with the aircraft in the pattern and maintained visual separation.
According to the AIM, 4-3-3, standard pattern entry at an uncontrolled airport is abeam the midpoint in the downwind.
Enter pattern in level flight, abeam the midpoint of the runway, at pattern altitude. (1,000’...
Pilots can request a particular runway approach course and landing but in a controlled environment they are at the mercy of ATC. At high traffic (read busy) commercial airports they are unlikely to get their request. As far as I know, shy of an emergency declaration you cannot insist on a non standard runway and expect to get it.
At a quiet class C or D ...
GPS/WAAS will replace all but ILS in the end. Even now, with graphic displays, smart-lookup from databases, and a line to follow presented to the pilot, VOR use is rapidly falling by the wayside, and point to point navigation will become the norm (and that was occurring in 1996 even, I recall getting cleared direct to a waypoint that was off my paper chart ...
In the USA, we attended a safety seminar, where the preferred response was "Negative contact, Nxxxxx", or "Traffic in sight, Nxxxxx".
My panel now shows ADS-B In traffic, so planes with ADS-B Out are a lot easier to spot as we now have a much better idea of where to look.
It is the advice of the FAA that you should be looking out the window quite a bit when VFR in the pattern. According to this AC related to traffic patterns:
Collision Avoidance. The pilot in command’s (PIC) primary
responsibility is to see and avoid other aircraft and to help them see
and avoid his or her aircraft. Keep lights and strobes on. The use ...
My understanding of light gun signals was taught to me a little differently. For simplicity, I will concentrate on light gun signals for airborne aircraft only.
Alternating Red and Green is exercise extreme caution.
Steady Red is give way to other traffic. Which implies that you should stay in the pattern. But, you are not cleared to land.
Steady Green is a ...
Its not that easy for a non-pilot to do it, but there are about a dozen "Arrival Procedures" that show specific routes into ATL.
You can also see on the Atlanta Area Chart how some of the traffic might flow near your house.
The easiest thing to do, if you can pick out some of the aircraft, is to look up their flight paths on Flightaware:
The most important point is that if any ATC instruction isn't clear then you should just ask them to repeat or clarify it.
Having said that, turning in the shorter direction is stated in the FAA's Pilot/Controller Glossary:
FLY HEADING (DEGREES)- Informs the pilot of the heading he/she should
fly. The pilot may have to turn to, or continue on, a ...
Several possible reasons.
Speed differences between aircraft classes. Larger jets cruise and land at much faster speeds than single-engine props. Keeping their pattern separate from slower traffic minimizes problems posed by a faster plane entering the pattern behind a slower one.
Noise abatement. A jet, even a smaller private one at near-idle in approach, ...
There's no "standard holding pattern" at any airport, towered or not. If the runway is occupied or temporarily closed for some reason, you might was well leave the traffic pattern and go putt around for a while someplace where there are fewer aircraft. At a towered airport, the controller will likely tell you what to do - but again, you can make both his ...
'Left' or 'right' traffic means that when you are flying the traffic pattern, all turns are to that direction.
The wikipedia article on traffic patterns isn't bad, and has some decent graphics, including this one from the FAA's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge:
The top pattern is left traffic, while the bottom pattern is right traffic.