Whether you are communicating with air traffic control or announcing your position on a Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF), it is important to know the standard legs of a traffic pattern. There may be times where you will have to announce your position over the radio or follow air traffic control instructions. Here’s an image showing the different legs of the traffic pattern as well as what you might expect to hear from other pilots on the radio. In this example our call sign will be “N4247E” and the airport will be “Easton Airport”. The airport is uncontrolled (without a control tower) and therefore beginning and end of each radio transmission includes “Easton Traffic”.
You may be talking to an air traffic controller when you hear the phrase “Cleared for the option”. That means that you are allowed to perform one of the following types of approaches and landings. But what’s the difference between an approach and a landing?
An airplane’s path towards a runway before landing
Low approach: an approach to land without touching down on the runway because the pilot then climbs and continues on the flight
Missed approach: a published instrument procedure used to discontinue the approach
An airplane touching down on a surface, usually a runway
Full stop landing: When an airplane lands on the runway then exits via a taxiway
Touch and go: When an airplane touches down on the runway then continues for takeoff without stopping
Stop and go: Similar to a touch and go, except the airplane comes to a complete stop before taking off again