Short Circuit, aka Flying The Traffic Pattern

I love the names the aviation community has come up with. For instance, if you take off, circle the airport and then land, you can proudly say you “Flew the Traffic Pattern.” It sounds pretty impressive, doesn’t it? Would it seem nearly as awe-inspiring without the name? I doubt it; if I got in a car right now, drove around the block and then ended up back in my driveway, nobody would really care. But if I said “I just drove the pattern,” people might take notice (so long as it’s not the police – I never said I’d drive MY car around the block… wink wink…).

What is the Traffic Pattern?

In a word, “hard.” It shouldn’t be, but it is. At least that was my impression after trying it out today. It’s because it’s so darned complicated, as outlined by these six massively-difficult steps:

  1. Take Off
  2. Turn
  3. Turn
  4. Turn
  5. Turn
  6. Land

See! I told you it was intense. And I apologize for using so many technical terms, you poor readers who don’t fly airplanes probably had no idea what any of those words actually meant. Don’t worry, I don’t either, and Kevin can attest for that – I think I wore the poor guy’s voice out this morning. Granted he wasn’t screaming for dear life (at least not outwardly), but his mouth certainly got a workout.

I wouldn’t be surprised if next time he simply plugs in a recording that keeps repeating:

Now turn. Nope too much. Not enough. Add some rudder. You looking alriiii- now you’re climbing again. Keep that nose up. No, not your real nose, stop looking at the ceiling and look back out the windshield. Where’s your trim? Now you’re losing altitude. Stop rapping your radio calls. Add some more rudder. Keep lined up on the center line – no, this is the Interstate, the RUNWAY center line. AAAAAAHHHHHH!

We spent the entire lesson just flying the traffic pattern over and over in the Piper Warrior. Six times in all if I remember correctly, with me at the helm for four. My first one sucked. My second one was better. My third one sucked worse than the first. And my fourth was a total success; and by “success” I mean “sucked.” Kevin said I did alright for the first time, but then jumped out of the plane when we landed for good and kissed the ground. If I didn’t know better I’d swear he was just saying it to make me feel better.

I’m hoping I get better with practice. On the positive side, it can’t get much worse.

Circuits – They’re Like The Metric Version of Traffic Patterns

As I’ve mentioned before, Kevin is a recent transplant from Britain, which means he wears soccer shorts and tall socks, wonders why NFL players don’t “Scrum,” laughs at American beer and pronounces words differently than we’re used to. Here are two notable examples:

Altimeter. We pronounce it “Al-Tim-It-Er,” but Kevin gives it a much sexier “Al-Ta-Me-Ter.”

Traffic Pattern. We say “Tra-Fic-Paa-Tern,” he said “Sir-Cut.”

See, it’s those little vowel enunciations that make all the difference. Same words, just different vowel stresses.

Actually I think it’s really cool that Kev says “Circuit” rather than “Pattern.” I actually prefer his term. Anybody can fly a “Pattern,” but a “Circuit” sounds much more impressive. Consider the following scenarios:

Option One:

“Hey Lee, what are you flying?”


“Oh that’s so cute. Lame, but cute.”

Option Two:

“Hey Lee, what are you flying?”


“You are so sexy, let’s head back to my place so you can tell me all about Britain while we scrum.”

See how that works? The choice is pretty obvious. Besides, “Circuits” sound more difficult than “Patterns.” Patterns are just repeated actions, images or sounds. Circuits are, well, I don’t know what they are, but they just sound better. Remember that movie Short Circuit? Imagine if it was called Short Pattern. Steve Guttenberg’s career would have been over instantly, and he never would have gone on to make other classics like Meet The Santas or Heidi 4 Paws.

So I’m going to keep calling them circuits. Unless I end up in Britain, then I’ll call them “patterns” just to make things difficult.

Are Sunglasses Safe?

It’s only been one lessons with the lucky “pilot sunglasses” and I’m already causing controversy. Some say you shouldn’t wear them because they make you an unsafe pilot. How? I don’t know, so I’ll make this up:

Wearing sunglasses while flying increases your chances of catching cold, having bad breath, memory loss, crash landing in amusement parks, sudden limb loss, memory loss, ingrown toenails, heartburn and memory loss.

This debate nearly caused a scrum in the flight office earlier (okay, I admit I have NO idea what “scrum” means). But Kevin wears sunglasses while he flies, and since I’ve already committed to imitating his speech and mannerism patterns – i mean mannerism circuits – I’ll wear them too.

Until next time, have a scrum-tastic day.

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