An anonymous forum to allow you to share those moments in flying that caused you concern. You can post without registering a username, registered users can log out to post
By Anon
#1507781
Recently started night flying and had a bit of an experience...

My instructor and I go off into the local area for a familiarisation exercise. We rejoin the circuit for a look at our lovely airfield at night and to check out the PAPI's. On joining the pattern a fellow PPL is solo in the circuit, I assume regaining currency.

We slot in behind him and on our downwind leg I notice that he is extending the downwind leg, I mention this to my instructor who says that this is typical and not a bad idea at night to give you a longer final. He continues his downwind leg so far for a moment I think he is going to leave the ATZ. We follow him round giving lots of space and do a go around, we have given so much space that he is now very very far ahead.

After our go around we are discussing the circuit at night and the differences. I fly a normal circuit extending the downwind leg slightly as advised and turn base. Descending and getting set up, maybe half way through the base leg matey jim virtually out of nowhere flies across me from right to left on his final.

I put on full power, brought 1 stage of flap up and turned right being careful not to stall. Instructor and I both surprised to see him there. Now this wasn't an incredibly close call, but it could easily have been had either of our timings been different.

On the ground the three of us have a chat about what could have happened differently.

Neither my instructor or I heard any radio call from the other chap for downwind or final. That doesn't mean he didn't make them, just neither of us heard him. Knowing that he was doing jumbo finals we should have been looking out for this, but we thought that we had given him so much space that he would be well out the way.

Also there is a cluster of villages to be avoided for noise abatement, usually your base leg keeps you to the left of these villages using the 45 degree from the back of the wing trick. Even extending the downwind leg I kept to the left away from the villages. The other guy was flying so far out that his final approach took him straight over the top of the villages. Somewhere you would not normally be expecting to see someone coming in from. I have always been told to look before making the final turn just in case, but his circuit was so large and such an unusual shape that neither me nor my instructor would have expected him to have been where he was.

I know there are a few things I could have done differently; workload was higher, instructor was explaining things may explain why we missed radio calls if they were made. Should have been eagle eyed knowing he was in the circuit also, thinking we gave him enough time and not hearing him was not enough to conclude that he wasn't there!

What he could do differently, fly a normal circuit pattern.... His circuit was so large, I have seen this discussed on here many times but never actually witnessed it until this event, it strikes me as unnecessary that you would fly such a large circuit also means others may not expect you to be there...

I would assume had an accident have happened it would have been my fault.

Thoughts welcome!
User avatar
By Flyin'Dutch'
#1507802
Anon wrote:I know there are a few things I could have done differently; workload was higher, instructor was explaining things may explain why we missed radio calls if they were made. Should have been eagle eyed knowing he was in the circuit also, thinking we gave him enough time and not hearing him was not enough to conclude that he wasn't there!

What he could do differently, fly a normal circuit pattern.... His circuit was so large, I have seen this discussed on here many times but never actually witnessed it until this event, it strikes me as unnecessary that you would fly such a large circuit also means others may not expect you to be there...

I would assume had an accident have happened it would have been my fault.

Thoughts welcome!


From what you describe you were on base leg when he was on final.

Not positively identifying where the other circuit traffic was, was untidy of all three of you and would have avoided the surprise which followed.

I would have been very very uncomfortable flying that circuit knowing there was someone else in it but not knowing where they were..

When someone is flying very wide circuits there are two options, one is to follow the other pilot or the second one is to fly the normal circuit ensuring that the other person is aware of what you are doing either via ATC/FISO or safetycom. I would only do the latter if I was able to positively communicate my intention to the other aeroplane.

You wrote that they were nearly going to fly out of the ATZ, i.e. they were still in it; that may have been a generous circuit but not especially enormous.

It is very difficult, especially at night, to determine where others are in relation to ground features i.e. where they overflying the noise sensitive area or not? Don't jump to conclusions.
By Anon
#1507807
He was definitely over the noise abatement area as the neighbours had phoned to complain (honestly, they must sit by the phone waiting!)...

As you mentioned though, being in the circuit and not knowing where the other traffic is is not a comfortable position to be in. :oops: :!: