Downwind leg in crosswind
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I'm struggling to keep the ground track of my downwind leg of the pattern parallel with the runway in a crosswind. I calculated a wind correction angle based on the AWOS, but the wind intensity increased, and the direction changed to even more crosswind during my lesson, and it doesn't seem like getting out my E6B to calculate a new WCA is appropriate while in the pattern. Because of the increased crab, it visually looks like I'm flying away from the runway on my downwind, and I end up overcorrecting to the point that my ground track and the runway were converging on my downwind leg leaving me with no base leg. I feel like I'm missing something extremely obvious in terms of visual reference during the downwind leg. Any tips?

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1592 Posts

@Anthony Watson
 

… it doesn't seem like getting out my E6B to calculate a new WCA is appropriate while in the pattern.

You've definitely got that right.

 Because of the increased crab, it visually looks like I'm flying away from the runway on my downwind,

That is certainly the way it appears

I feel like I'm missing something extremely obvious in terms of visual reference during the downwind leg.

No, I think you are recognizing the problem, just needing some tips on technique.

Any tips?

YES!! Get an instructor and go back out to the practice area practice Rectangular Patterns per the PP ACS Area V Task B Skill S3a and the Airplane Flying Handbook Chapter 7 Page 7-5 (take a good look at figure 7-4 which shows exactly what you're describing you see).  Get that ironed out in the practice area where you don't have distractions of radio calls and managing your vertical path to landing.  Then go back to the airport and put those skills to work in the traffic pattern.

 

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@Anthony Watson
You should be able to tell just by looking at the runway on downwind whether or not you're staying parallel and the right distance away even in a crab. Pick a point on your window frame as a reference - say halfway. If the runway moves up from the reference point, then you are moving away from the runway. If it moves down from the reference point, then you are moving toward the runway. Adjust your crab angle accordingly to correct.

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@Anthony Watson  Also - pick out some ground reference checkpoints in the patten.  Like mid field down wind I need to be over the elementary school or the cementary or whatever.  Same for base to final…..etc,.  Flying to ‘those’ points will help you keep  your pattern in check….
 

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1592 Posts
Try to avoid specific points on the ground by your airport as they do not transfer to other airports.  Learn to reference nothing but the runway.
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@Ronald Levy well - I do understand your logic….but (and maybe I'm different) 80% of my landings are at 2-3 airports….and ground base references are a HUGE help and time savings…
 

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@Anthony Watson
In addition to what others have said, if you have a GPS that shows your track, glancing at it can help you pick up the correct crab angle to remain parallel with the runway.