91.113(g) and straight-in landings
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Someone posted a question on this earlier, but then deleted their post.  However, this is a significant issue which those who operate at nontowered airports need to understand to avoid conflict.

The question was whether there was an official FAA interpretation regarding 91.113(g) about whether aircraft already established on final have right-of-way over aircraft which have not yet turned final even if the other aircraft is already lower.  The answer is “yes”, and there is an official precedent case on point which solidifies the FAA's interpretation.  The FAA says this regulation means (short of an emergency) an aircraft already established on final does have right-of-way  over an aircraft not yet on final (e.g., on downwind or base), and the second aircraft may not turn in front of the aircraft on final if that will force the aircraft on final to alter/abandon its approach.  Note that Mr. Fekete was subject to not just a suspension, but an emergency revocation for admittedly, knowingly, and deliberately cutting off an aircraft on a straight-in final forcing it to abandon its approach.  

As this as already been interpreted by the FAA in this case and adjudicated before an ALJ and the full NTSB, any opinion to the contrary from any other source, be it AOPA's legal staff or someone's interpretation of an Advisory Circular (which is not regulatory), would be without legal foundation.  Short of bringing this case before the US Court of Appeals, this interpretation has force of law.  And even there, I think it would be very hard to prove before that court that the FAA's position is “arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise not according to law.”

Now this doesn't mean that if there's a plane on a 10-mile straight-in doing 80 knots you must extend to get behind it.  Right-of-way and 91.113(g) are only issues if turning in front of the aircraft on final would create a conflict and force that aircraft to alter/abandon its approach to avoid a collision.  If you can turn in, land, clear the runway and be at the fuel pump before the aircraft on final reaches the threshold, there's no conflict and no right-of-way issue to resolve.  Of course, it would still be both prudent and polite to discuss this on CTAF before you do it, but that's not a regulatory issue.

All that said, if you're doing a straight-in and someone cuts you off forcing you to alter/abandon your approach, CTAF is not the place to deal with it.  Just do the safe thing and worry about anything else later.

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Hi Ron,

Don't know why the original topic/question wasn't showing up for you, but here's it is;

Found your response after I responded to his post, and linked your response in his thread. Very well presented answer Ron, thanks!

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Ronald Levy, that was nicely stated.  The one challenge I often encounter is at uncontrolled fields where I am coming in on one of the RNAV approaches and I am miles and miles out.  Obviously you are on a straight in with the IFR approach and some local pilots may be in the pattern.  I try to balance but probably overly lean in the direction of communicating too much on CTAF my progress positions to allow others to use the field even knowing I am on super long final.  To make this beneficial I tend to communicate that position in terms of miles from the threshold rather than using ‘named’ points on the approach; I feel this is important because VFR pilots probably don't have a clue where those ‘named’ points are in relation to the airport and distance.

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Emmons Patzer: 
 

To make this beneficial I tend to communicate that position in terms of miles from the threshold rather than using ‘named’ points on the approach; I feel this is important because VFR pilots probably don't have a clue where those ‘named’ points are in relation to the airport and distance.

This is a point often overlooked in instrument training.  I teach my instrument trainees that when announcing on CTAF, they should frame their transmission so a Student Pilot on their first solo would understand it.

But even for an old ATP/CFI like me, it really helps when I'm the VFR pilot in the pattern somewhere other than home because I don't study all the instrument approaches for all runways at airports to which I'm flying VFR.  Makes it a lot easier when someone on an instrument approach announces “five miles northeast inbound entering right downwind for runway 36” as opposed to “BUNGO inbound on the RNAV Alpha circling 36.”

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So there are no legal ramifications to not following the published traffic pattern at an uncontrolled airport? Reading this post seems to imply that one should just plan to fly a straight-in to a runway and all other traffic must accommodate that. It's more difficult to judge spacing on straight-in traffic than traffic in the pattern.  And straight in traffic at 3+ miles can be difficult to see.   I completely support straight-ins associated with aircraft conducting practice instrument approaches, but again, the response to the original questions seems to neglect the enhanced safety associated with flying the established pattern.  

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Paul Yurechko: 
 

So there are no legal ramifications to not following the published traffic pattern at an uncontrolled airport? 

There are definite legal ramifications if you don't fly a traffic pattern in the correct direction, but there is equally definitely no legal requirement to fly a full pattern.

Reading this post seems to imply that one should just plan to fly a straight-in to a runway and all other traffic must accommodate that. 

That's an extreme oversimplification of the regulations.  The regulatory bottom line is simply that barring an emergency, you are not allowed to cut off someone already on final.

It's more difficult to judge spacing on straight-in traffic than traffic in the pattern.  And straight in traffic at 3+ miles can be difficult to see.  

If the plane on final is more than three miles out when you are ready to turn base, you should be able turn in and land without interfering with the other plane"s approach.

 I completely support straight-ins associated with aircraft conducting practice instrument approaches, but again, the response to the original questions seems to neglect the enhanced safety associated with flying the established pattern.  

You are certainly entitled to that opinion, but the FAA's position is quite clear – airplanes in the pattern aren't permitted to cut off airplanes on final forcing them to alter or abandon their approach.  If you feel the regulation should be changed, see 14 CFR Part 11 for how to petition for such a change.  But until the rules are so changed, for the protection of your pilot certificate and the safety of all, please do follow the rules as currently published and interpreted by the FAA.

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Excellent technique!  Pilots turning downwind to base can scan with accuracy.  Good job.