Normal operation of a small airplane in the vicinity of an aerodrome requires adherence to the standard traffic pattern, described below. This is necessary because of the extremely high volume of air traffic in a very small space; if everyone is following the same plan it's easier to keep track of where everyone is.

```
>>>>>>>>> Wind Direction >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

-------------------------------------------
|                                      o~ |
+-<-Upwind--<- | --               Runway              -- | ---<--Final--<---+
|              -------------------------------------------                  ^
v                                                                           |
| Crosswind                                                            Base |
|                                                                           ^
v                                                   Abeam                   |
+----->---------->----------Downwind------>--------Numbers---->-------------+
/
/
/
45-degree /  entry
/
/

```

The normal traffic pattern begins and ends on the runway and has four legs. One nearly always chooses to operate from the runway most nearly aligned against the wind (in this case, runway 19 (see runway numbering)). Taking off and landing into the wind allows you to have the lowest possible ground speed for your air speed (which is determined by the type of aircraft).

From the runway, one flies along the extended runway centerline into the wind until one reaches an altitude of about 500 feet AGL. This is the upwind leg. Its purposes is to give you enough time and altitude to make a safe turn with adequate ground clearance. If you experience an engine failure on takeoff, you will immediately make a 180-degree turn and land on the runway you just took off from in the opposite direction (since there may be someone immediately behind you landing in the direction you took off from, this may be excessively exciting.)

At the end of the upwind leg you turn 90 degrees. Above we've shown a pattern with only left turns; this is called a "left pattern" and is the standard unless otherwise explicitly called out (in which case it's a "right pattern", the opposite.) This turn brings you onto crosswind, perpendicular to the runway, and you continue to climb.

The length of your crosswind leg is adjusted to put your downwind the right distance from the runway. The "right distance" is "far enough away to have time to turn, but close enough to land if your engine fails". Normally this means about 1000-2000' but it varies with aircraft and terrain.

At the end of your crosswind you make another 90-degree turn (left or right as appropriate) to your downwind, and continue to climb. Early in the downwind (or even in the crosswind if you're a high-performance aircraft) you should reach pattern altitude -- specified for each airport and runway but usually 1000' AGL. During the downwind you check all your instruments and settings.

When you're abeam the numbers -- that is, directly in line with the landing end of the runway -- you begin your descent by retarding power and, once your airspeed declines, adding flaps. You continue in the same direction.