Flying circuits (or patterns if you in the USA) is something you probably did a lot of during your pilot training.
It teaches you everything you need to know about the process of flying a plane from takeoff to landing, giving you chance to rehearse and hone your skills over and over again in a short period of time.
If you’re now a qualified pilot, you probably haven’t done much of this recently. But here are 7 reasons you should occasionally fly some circuit patterns
1 Hone your landing skills
If you’re like me, you go through periods where you grease every landing, and then other times when you seem to kangaroo bounce every landing. Getting it right every time is down to consistency and practice.
Going around the circuit numerous times in one flight gives you the chance to practice perfecting your landing technique over and over in a short period of time.
2 Practice Go Arounds
When was the last chance you flew or rehearsed a go around? I can’t remember, it’s been so long.
This is a good thing – it means I haven’t flown any uncoordinated approaches, or gotten too close to the aircraft ahead.
However, I’d like to think I had the procedure of a go around fresh in my mind. So doing some circuit training gives you the chance to practice go arounds and remind yourself of how to fly it, and how the aircraft behaves when you do so.
3 Practice Short Field Landings
As mentioned in the first point, flying some circuit patterns lets you hone your landing skills by performing them over and over.
If you are a little rusty or inexperienced in short field landings, you can do some practice at this during your circuits – especially if it’s from a longer runway which has the space to practice.
Set up each approach as if it is to a short field and nail the speed and height, aiming to touch down at the correct place each time.
You could even practice flying over imaginary obstacles such as trees at the start of the runway to help you learn to control your short field landing in these circumstances.
4 Practice Engine Failures Safely
Again, this is one for longer runways.
Engine failure after takeoff is no fun, but a very real threat. Rehearsing what to do is useful for keeping it fresh in your mind, and you can practice closing the throttle after take off and setting up the aircraft for a practice forced landing back on the runway.
You may wish to have an instructor with you to do this.
5 Get Better at Crosswinds
If you’ve got a day with a stiff crosswind it’s the perfect time to get out into the circuit and get good at those crosswind landings.
It gives you the chance to repeat over and over to try out different methods of approach, such as crabbing or wing down. You can also practice the transition into the flare.
All too often a crosswind is thrown at use as we approach a runway and we haven’t had much experience of it lately.
Practicing it in the circuit helps you get better at crosswinds.
6 Get Better at Dealing with the Stressful Parts of Flight
A circuit pattern is a whole flight thrown into five or ten minutes, and you can do it over and over.
If there is any part of a regular flight which you struggle with, such as slow flight, setting up an approach, departing the airfield, now is your time to practice and get good at it.
7 Get Better at Speaking to ATC
As with the previous point, you have a chance during circuit pattern flying to go through the full range of departure and approach procedures with ATC.
The level of service will depend on the airfield you fly from.
If you struggle with radio transmissions, flying circuits gives you the chance to get better at speaking to ATC and to think about the calls made by both sides during a typical flight out and into an airfield.