Bankstown Airport circuit training

Circuit training is the first stage of practical pilot training focused on take-offs and landings.  It involves the pilot making approaches to the runway or helipad, touching down and then applying power to take off again.  This is undertaken in accordance with Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) Regulations which are consistent with international practices.
How circuits are conducted

A training circuit consists of five legs – take-off, crosswind, downwind, base and final approach to the runway.Circuit diagram

Aircraft take off into the wind, climb to 500 feet and then turn onto the crosswind leg.  They continue to ascend to 1000 feet and turn onto the downwind leg. Having turned onto the base leg the descent commences.  After turning onto the final approach and lining up with the runway the aircraft will touch down and take off again.

For left-hand circuits, the pilot turns left after take-off and flies anticlockwise.  For right-hand circuits, the pilot turns right and flies in a clockwise direction. A simplified representation of a left-hand circuit is shown at right. 

The take off and final stage of the circuit is flown into the wind, as this is the safest way for an aircraft to operate.

Helicopters will conduct circuits from the helicopter landing site at the north end of the airport.  They will circuit inside the fixed wing aircraft circuit, in the same direction.

Runway 11 Right / 29 Left is usually used for circuit training for noise abatement reasons.  This allows the aircraft to fly primarily, but not exclusively, over open space and commercial or industrial properties.

Bankstown Airport’s voluntary Fly Neighbourly Procedures ask signatories to keep circuits as narrow as possible.  However, because the student pilots performing circuits are so new to flying, this is not always achievable.

Animation of the Bankstown circuit

The animated aircraft below and the static tracks shown in blue are created from actual tracks flown by aircraft in the circuit, however only one circuit will operate at any given time.

This animation illustrates the degree of variation that will occur in the way student pilots fly circuits and the altitudes achieved.

You can enlarge to full-screen by clicking the square-shaped button in the bottom right-hand corner of the player.

To replay the animation press the “Replay” button in the bottom left-hand corner of the player.
Effects of runway direction

Air traffic control will determine which runways are used at any given time depending on the direction of the wind – this is because aircraft must generally take off and land into the wind for safety reasons.

Depending on which runway direction is in use, different suburbs will be affected by different legs of the circuit.  The Noise Complaints and Information Service tends to receive more complaints from suburbs under the crosswind and base legs of the circuit.  This is the case at all airports where circuit training occurs.  Revesby and Chipping Norton will be affected by either the crosswind or base legs when circuits are being conducted on the south side of Bankstown Airport as shown in the image below.

Circuit training

Circuit training hours

Training during both day and night is important for developing pilot competencies, as is experience with using different types of navigational aids.

Circuit training times are set out in the Noise Abatement Procedures for Bankstown Airport.  Fixed wing circuit times are:

  • Monday to Friday, non-daylight saving periods: 6:00am – 10:00pm
  • Monday to Friday, daylight saving periods: 6:00am – 10:30pm
  • Weekends: 7:00am to last light

Helicopter circuit training times are:

  • Monday to Friday: 07:00am – 7:00pm or last light if earlier
  • Weekends: 08:00am – 06:00pm or last light if earlier

Due to flying training courses running on different schedules, some nights will have multiple aircraft operating and other nights none at all.

Please note that these times above apply only to circuit training, and not to arriving and departing aircraft which may operate 24 hours a day.

While there are set times for circuit training it is important to note that when aircraft are arriving outside control tower hours they are required to fly a circuit before landing for safety reasons.  Therefore it may seem like aircraft are flying circuits outside hours when this is not the case.


Aircraft aim to fly at 1000 feet on the downwind leg. Helicopters will fly at 700 feet to separate them from the fixed wing aircraft which will usually fly faster.  Note that these altitudes apply only to the downwind leg.  This is because aircraft are ascending on the take-off and crosswind legs and descending on the base and final legs.

While attaining 1000 feet on the downwind leg is the aim, in reality the altitudes of aircraft that are conducting circuit training will always vary.  Part of the reason for this is that the trainees are new to flying and factors such as their level of experience and even their degree of nervousness will affect the altitudes they can achieve.  Unfortunately the nature of circuit training is to teach new pilots and therefore this variation cannot be avoided.

The following image shows the density of aircraft in the circuit over a three-month period. The colour indicates the density – the hotter and deeper the colour, the greater the number of movements.

Circuit Training fact sheet

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