All great points, Tim. Regardless of wing type, I think we can all agree on:
- Always clear your turns! ESPECIALLY when you’re in the approach pattern and ESPECIALLY late in the day when lots of pilots are coming into AJX, your head should be on a swivel.
- If you’re not comfortable with a crowded approach, consider postponing your launch until the air traffic clears up a bit, or (if conditions and your skills are good), stay up and away from the pattern until it thins out before making your approach.
- The approach pattern is DEFINITELY NOT the place to get more air time. Once you’re in it, you should approach and land as efficiently as possible. Not sure if this is the preferred spot, but if I get close and I’m either too high or still encountering lift, I’ll move into the clear area northwest of the LZ and west of the powerlines to burn altitude, as that tends to be upwind of the LZ late in the day (making it easy to move into the pattern once I’ve gotten down a bit). Also, if the pattern all of a sudden becomes mobbed with pilots, I can easily aim for the bailout on the SW corner.
We have an established traffic pattern, which creates expectations for all of us (we expect the HGs to be generally on the East side, and the PGs to generally be on the West). This isn’t really up for debate. I’m a somewhat greener pilot, but I don’t see how the approaches could be modified to make them more efficient or safe. We have to work with the terrain and weather features that we have and stick to the well-established pattern – it’s when pilots “go rogue” that we have problems. Would be like if I decided one day to start driving on the other side of the road because I thought the Brits were onto something great. Crashes would happen.