Airplane Maneuver: Rectangular Patterns

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The rectangular pattern is another ground track maneuver that involves not only varying the bank to correct for wind drift, but a great deal of crabbing into the wind to keep the aircraft on the desired path. In the S-turn and the turn about a point, a little crabbing was done as the aircraft reached the crosswind point. But in those maneuvers, the aircraft was turning throughout the entire maneuver.

In this maneuver, there is a lot of straight-and-level flight with crabbing the only means for correcting wind drift. The rectangle pattern is flown parallel to, and equidistant from, the field or group of fields used to make up the rectangle. As in all ground track maneuvers, the entry is made downwind and the altitude should again be about 600 feet above obstructions.

Fly the aircraft to the point that is parallel to the downwind corner of the field. You are flying parallel to the field on a downwind heading. You will have to crab as necessary to maintain equal distance from the field. At the downwind corner of the field, make your first turn. Because the turn is from downwind to crosswind, the bank should begin steep and gradually shallow out to a medium bank as the aircraft reaches the crosswind point. The turn should be complete with all crab established at a point directly parallel to the corner of the field. This first turn is more than 90 degrees because of the crab angle required to maintain a straight ground track. Continue on, crabbing to hold a constant distance from the field on the downwind side, until you reach a point directly parallel to the next corner of the field. 

Upon reaching the second corner, the aircraft is still crosswind. The initial bank is medium, gradually decreasing to shallow as you reach the point where you are into the wind and parallel to the corner of the field. This turn is less than 90 degrees because the turn began with the aircraft in a crabbed situation, pointing slightly into the wind, and it ended up pointing directly upwind (into the wind). All of these points assume the wind was on your nose. If not, you will have to crab, as necessary, to hold your constant distance from the field.

At the third corner, the aircraft is pointed into the wind, so the initial bank should be shallow and gradually increased to medium as the aircraft reaches the crosswind position. This turn is less than 90 degrees because the turn was started into the wind. The turn is completed crosswind, requiring a crab angle to hold your flight path parallel to the field.

Upon reaching a point parallel to the fourth corner, remembering you are still crosswind, start out with a medium bank and gradually increase it to steep as you turn downwind. This turn should be more than 90 degrees because you started the turn with a crab into the wind, and the turn ended up directly downwind. If you are directly downwind, no crab should be required to hold your pattern an equal distance from the field on this leg. This process completes one circuit of a rectangular pattern.

As you have probably already surmised, the rectangular pattern has a direct relationship to the normal traffic pattern. Since all good traffic patterns are rectangular, you must learn how this maneuver transfers to the traffic pattern. Many pilots fail to allow for wind effect and fly very erratic traffic patterns.

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