VFR Flight Basics

This lesson covers the basics of VFR flight including flying a standard visual approach pattern - the basics of takeoff and landing at non-towered airports plus some information on altitude and airspeed rules and restrictions.  There is also information about communication at non-towered airports. 

In the next course, navigation using sectional chart as well as navigation aids including VOR, DME and NDB will be covered.

The information you should review is:

AOPA - Operations at Non-Towered Airports

EPAV Video - Standard Pattern

There will be both a written and practical exam that will include radio procedures as well as demostration of proper pattern flying.

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You might also find our overview of Communication at Non-Towered Airports helpful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You should understand the basics of flying a standard pattern (left-hand traffic as shown in the top part of the diagram above).  The AOPA Operations at Non-Towered Airports gives the preferred and alternate methods for entering a landing pattern including the options for entering a pattern from the opposite side of the field (side opposite the established pattern).  Be sure you can describe how pattern entry can be done.  Also know when a right-hand pattern would be used (such as in the case of parallel runways, as shown above) and the proper altitude and distance from the runway you should be at when in a landing pattern.

Note that the illustration above applies to a single runway (no parallel runway) with either left or right hand traffic - the top half of the illustration applies to landing and departure from a runway with left-hand traffic, the bottom half applies when the runway requires a right-hand traffic pattern.  When there are parallel runways as shown above it is important to remember that the no transgression zone cannot be crossed.  So, not only are turns back into the pattern (such as would be done for landing practice) or out of the pattern after departure made as shown (direction in the same direction made for turns in the pattern for landing).  Note that correction for winds to ensure you track the extended center line of the departure runway until you reach the appropriate altitude for turns to commence is considered good practice.  Unless you have been otherwise instructed by ATC to 'fly runway heading' or other specified heading (where 'fly runway heading' means you maintain a heading on the actual magnetic bearing of the runway without correcting for winds)  Since uncontrolled facilities do not have the luxury of a set of eyes on other traffic (or traffic radar) ensuring you remain outside the 'No Transgression' zone is, as stated above, considered good practice.  Intentionally turning into the 'No Transgression' zone is strictly prohibited under normal flight operations.

This video from Embry-Riddle on the basics of Traffic Patterns gives a good description of what you should do (and, what you should know).

You should also understand how runways are identified and how to know which runway is the active runway based on wind direction.  If you are not sure ask a fellow pilot or flight instructor.

 

 

You should also know the following rules of VFR flight:

§ 91.151 Fuel requirements for flight in VFR conditions.

(a) No person may begin a flight in an airplane under VFR conditions unless (considering wind and forecast weather conditions) there is enough fuel to fly to the first point of intended landing and, assuming normal cruising speed -

(1) During the day, to fly after that for at least 30 minutes; or

(2) At night, to fly after that for at least 45 minutes.

(b) No person may begin a flight in a rotorcraft under VFR conditions unless (considering wind and forecast weather conditions) there is enough fuel to fly to the first point of intended landing and, assuming normal cruising speed, to fly after that for at least 20 minutes.

 

§ 91.159 VFR cruising altitude or flight level.

Except while holding in a holding pattern of 2 minutes or less, or while turning, each person operating an aircraft under VFR in level cruising flight more than 3,000 feet above the surface shall maintain the appropriate altitude or flight level prescribed below, unless otherwise authorized by ATC:

(a) When operating below 18,000 feet MSL and -

(1) On a magnetic course of zero degrees through 179 degrees, any odd thousand foot MSL altitude 500 feet (such as 3,500, 5,500, or 7,500); or

(2) On a magnetic course of 180 degrees through 359 degrees, any even thousand foot MSL altitude 500 feet (such as 4,500, 6,500, or 8,500).

(b) When operating above 18,000 feet MSL, maintain the altitude or flight level assigned by ATC.

 

§ 91.113 Right-of-way rules: Except water operations.

(a) Inapplicability. This section does not apply to the operation of an aircraft on water.

(b) General. When weather conditions permit, regardless of whether an operation is conducted under instrument flight rules or visual flight rules, vigilance shall be maintained by each person operating an aircraft so as to see and avoid other aircraft. When a rule of this section gives another aircraft the right-of-way, the pilot shall give way to that aircraft and may not pass over, under, or ahead of it unless well clear.

(c) In distress. An aircraft in distress has the right-of-way over all other air traffic.

(d) Converging. When aircraft of the same category are converging at approximately the same altitude (except head-on, or nearly so), the aircraft to the other's right has the right-of-way. If the aircraft are of different categories -

(1) A balloon has the right-of-way over any other category of aircraft;

(2) A glider has the right-of-way over an airship, powered parachute, weight-shift-control aircraft, airplane, or rotorcraft.

(3) An airship has the right-of-way over a powered parachute, weight-shift-control aircraft, airplane, or rotorcraft.

However, an aircraft towing or refueling other aircraft has the right-of-way over all other engine-driven aircraft.

(e) Approaching head-on. When aircraft are approaching each other head-on, or nearly so, each pilot of each aircraft shall alter course to the right.

(f) Overtaking. Each aircraft that is being overtaken has the right-of-way and each pilot of an overtaking aircraft shall alter course to the right to pass well clear.

(g) Landing. Aircraft, while on final approach to land or while landing, have the right-of-way over other aircraft in flight or operating on the surface, except that they shall not take advantage of this rule to force an aircraft off the runway surface which has already landed and is attempting to make way for an aircraft on final approach. When two or more aircraft are approaching an airport for the purpose of landing, the aircraft at the lower altitude has the right-of-way, but it shall not take advantage of this rule to cut in front of another which is on final approach to land or to overtake that aircraft.

 

§ 91.117 Aircraft speed.

(a) Unless otherwise authorized by the Administrator, no person may operate an aircraft below 10,000 feet MSL at an indicated airspeed of more than 250 knots (288 m.p.h.).

(b) Unless otherwise authorized or required by ATC, no person may operate an aircraft at or below 2,500 feet above the surface within 4 nautical miles of the primary airport of a Class C or Class D airspace area at an indicated airspeed of more than 200 knots (230 mph.). This paragraph (b) does not apply to any operations within a Class B airspace area. Such operations shall comply with paragraph (a) of this section.

(c) No person may operate an aircraft in the airspace underlying a Class B airspace area designated for an airport or in a VFR corridor designated through such a Class B airspace area, at an indicated airspeed of more than 200 knots (230 mph).

(d) If the minimum safe airspeed for any particular operation is greater than the maximum speed prescribed in this section, the aircraft may be operated at that minimum speed.