Operations resources


Non-controlled aerodromes

Circuit procedures



Standard circuit procedures

The standard aerodrome traffic circuit pattern facilitates an orderly flow of traffic and is normally a circuit pattern made with all turns to the left (CAR 166A). When arriving at an aerodrome to land, a pilot will normally join the circuit upwind, crosswind (mid-field), or downwind (before mid-downwind). Landings and take-offs should be made on the active runway or the runway most closely aligned into wind.

If a secondary runway is being used, pilots using this secondary runway should avoid impeding the flow of traffic on the active runway.

Aerodromes that have right-hand circuits are listed in ERSA. Circuit information may also be published or provided by aerodrome operators in other sources of aeronautical information.

Maximum speed

Aircraft should not be flown in the circuit at more than 200 kt.

Circuit heights

By convention, aircraft should fly the standard traffic circuit at the heights above aerodrome elevation (as in the table and diagram below).

Type of aircraftStandard circuit speedStandard circuit height
High performance  (includes jets and many turboprops)Above approximately 150 kt1500 ft above aerodrome elevation
Medium performance  (includes most piston engine aircraft and gliders) [alt]Between approximately  55 kt and 150 kt1000 ft above aerodrome elevation
Low performance  (trikes and ultralight aircraft)Approximately 55 kt maximum500 ft above aerodrome elevation


During initial climb-out, the turn onto crosswind should be made at a height appropriate to the performance of the aircraft but, in any case, not less than 500 ft above terrain so as to be at circuit height when turning downwind.

Pilots may vary the size of the circuit depending on:

  • the performance of the aircraft
  • AFM/POH requirements
  • company SOPs and/or
  • other safety reasons.

Final approach

The turn onto final approach should be:

  • completed by a distance and height that is common to all operations at the particular aerodrome
  • commensurate with the speed flown in the circuit for all aircraft  of the same type.

In any case, the turn onto final should be completed by not less than 500 ft above aerodrome elevation. This should allow sufficient time for pilots to ensure the runway is clear for landing. It will also allow for the majority of aircraft to be stabilised for approach and landing.

Departing the circuit area

Aircraft should depart the aerodrome circuit area by extending one of the standard circuit legs or climbing to depart overhead. However, the aircraft should not execute a turn to fly against the circuit direction unless the aircraft is well outside the circuit area and no traffic conflict exists. This will normally be at least 3 nm from the departure end of the runway, but may be less for aircraft with high climb performance. In all cases, the distance should be based on the pilot’s awareness of traffic and the ability of the aircraft to climb above and clear of the circuit area.

Be aware of traffic joining the circuit by the recommended overfly procedure, especially if climbing to depart overhead the aerodrome (CAAP 166-01).

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New rules come into effect from 2 December 2021 that cover the general operating and flight rules. We are currently updating this guide to reflect the new rules. A new version will be available to download from 2 December.
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