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Traffic Pattern Altitude

A recent AskTheCFI post had a student pilot asking about the TPA at a field (I66) when it’s not listed in the A/FD Chart Supplement. The answers weren’t particularly informative so I thought I’d write a short post.

If you look in the A/FD Chart Supplement for TPA’s you’ll see that the traffic pattern altitudes are usually either 800’AGl or 1,000’AGL—though because of terrain or noise sensitivity they can be different. In the case of I66 it is not listed in the A/FD Chart Supplement (Digital Chart Supplement (d-CS)) so you don’t know exactly what it will be. The Airplane Flying Handbook states that “The traffic pattern altitude is usually 1,000 feet above the elevation of the airport surface.” According to the AIM 4-3-3,

Key to traffic pattern operations
1. Enter pattern in level flight, abeam the midpoint of the runway, at pattern altitude. (1,000’ AGL is recommended pattern altitude unless established otherwise. . .)

I’ve found it useful to use an EFB app to get airport elevation and TPA. ForeFlight lists the TPA as 2,034′ MSL which is 1,001’AGL—probably off by 1 foot due to some rounding somewhere. It’s a lot easier to use than the Digital Chart Supplement and you can access it in the cockpit. It also has frequencies, noise abatement procedures, sunrise/sunset, contacts, and lots of other good stuff.

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