I got a note from a California reader this week looking for a reality check on pattern operations at Rosamond, which is in the high desert, just west of Edwards Air Force Base. He reports that there's quite an active homebuilt community there and a group of them have become what he described as "insular" in their pattern practices. Translated, that means they like to do pretend fighter-jock stuff, including a lot of incomprehensible military slang on the CTAF. Here's a link amplifying it.
Now it's a little hard to judge this on the strength of a web link, but taking it at face value,
is the airport, he wonders, justified in having a discussion with these guys and what basis would it do so? One issue here is obvious: A bunch of GA pilots talking the talk strikes us all as just a little silly, but silly isn't against the law or the FARs. The rest of us just cringe. Given the proximity of Edwards, maybe some of them are genuine fighter jocks, for all we know. But incomprehensible jargon ought off to stay off the CTAF if it's related to intention in the pattern. It's hard enough to keep pattern operations peaceful and orderly without would-be Mavericks and Gooses (Geese?) larding up the freq. If they've assigned themselves call signs, double cringe.
I don't know how widespread this sort of thing is, but I have never seen it myself. What I have seenand what the Web site also mentionsis the use of an overhead approach. Personally, I see this as perfectly acceptable if it's done sensibly. I use overheads myself in fast airplanes, although the Cub is too stupid slow to bother. But I only fly it in certain circumstances. I won't enter an overhead if I know there's other traffic in the pattern that might conflict. The problem with an overhead is that when you break left, you will be in a position to T-bone traffic in the downwind or into the face of traffic entering on a 45-degree to downwind. That heightened risk isn't worth the non-standard procedure; I tool around and enter a regular downwind.
Second, the way you announce this is important. "White Mooney entering the initial" won't do it, since probably half the world has never heard of an overhead approach, much less the initial leg of it. So I explain it: "Venice traffic, Mooney is five south to enter the upwind leg for an overhead approach to 22, Venice traffic." Or something like that. You can actually enter an upwind with other traffic around, then decide whether to break into the downwind or take it to the crosswind, depending on where other airplanes are. This is a perfectly safe thing to do.
Overheads are fun to do and challenge your ability to judge power off speed, descent and glide angle in a way that square patterns don't. They also encourage tighter patterns and that's a good thing, since it's oh-so-hard to see an airplane on an unnecessary three-mile final. Still, I use radio calls as close to standard as I can get them so those unfamiliar will catch the flick. "Venice traffic, Mooney turning into the left downwind from the upwind, runway 22 Venice."
Around here, most pattern dwellers don't seem to get upset with overheads, but at some airports they seem to. Too bad, because they're a hoot to fly. I make it a practice not to tweak the Aunt Janes (except in blogs), so I wouldn't fly the overhead where I knew folks would get into a twist about it. It's just not worth the hassle. Or the lecture over the CTAF.