Circuit procedures


Standard circuit procedures

In a standard aerodrome traffic circuit pattern, all turns are made to the left (unless stated in ERSA FAC). When an aircraft is arriving to land at an aerodrome, the pilot will normally join the circuit upwing, crosswind or downwind. Landings can be made straight-in but must give way to traffic already established in the circuit. Further, take-offs and landings should be made into the wind.

Note: at many aerodromes, the traffic pattern changes based on the time of day (daytime or nighttime). This is due to terrain, obstructions or noise abatement issues.

Maximum speed

The maximum speed in a circuit is no more than 200 kt.

Circuit heights

Aircraft should fly the standard traffic circuit where operationally able.

Type of aircraftStandard circuit speedStandard circuit height
High performance  (includes jets and many turboprops)Above approximately 150 kt1,500 ft above aerodrome elevation
Medium performance  (includes most piston engine aircraft and gliders)Between approximately  55 kt and 150 kt1,000 ft above aerodrome elevation
Low performance  (trikes and ultralight aircraft)Approximately 55 kt maximum500 ft above aerodrome elevation


After take-off, and during the initial climb-out, the pilot should turn the aircraft onto crosswind at a height appropriate to the performance of the aircraft. This is normal or above 500 ft above the terrain.

Final approach

The pilot should turn the aircraft into the final approach at a distance and height that is common to all operations at a particular aerodrome, and commensurate with the speed flown by other aircraft in the circuit for the same type. The pilot should stabilise the aircraft onto final no less than 500 ft above the aerodrome elevation.

Circuit variations

Common variations of the circuit include:

  • the aircraft performance;
  • AFM/POH performance requirements;
  • company standard operating procedures; and/or
  • safety reasons (i.e. terrain).

Departing the circuit area

The pilot should depart the aircraft from the circuit by extending one of the standard legs or climbing to depart overhead (whilst broadcasting intentions). The pilot should not execute a turn to fly against the circuit direction unless the aircraft is outside and clear of the circuit area, given that no traffic conflicts exist.