Downwind Leg: Meaning, Synonyms, Antonyms, Translations and Use Cases

Downwind leg

Downwind leg is a term primarily applicable to aviation. It can also be applied to other areas such as golf or sailing as its common denominator is the direction of the wind.

Air traffic control is performed in a detailed and careful manner to avoid aircraft collisions, both on the ground and in the air. An average traffic control model consists of the upwind leg, crosswind leg, downwind leg, and final approach. And in this article, I’m going to talk about the downwind leg in terms of aviation, its synonyms, usage cases and much more.


 /daʊnˈwɪnd/ /lɛɡ/

  • A flight route that runs parallel to and in an opposite direction to the landing runway.
  • This leg is flown approximately 1⁄2 to 1 mile out from the landing runway in the specified traffic pattern altitude.

downwind leg


In Aviation

In an airport, a pattern (or circuit) is a standard path for coordinating air traffic.

A traffic pattern in an airfield is a standard path set for aircrafts for take-off or landing while maintaining the visuals with the airfield.

The use of  patterns in airfields is to minimize collisions of aircraft and maintain air safety.

These patterns are usually rectangular in shape and include the runway on one side of the rectangle.

These legs of the traffic control pattern have a particular name with different meaning.

  • Base leg
  • Downwind leg
  • Upwind leg
  • Crosswind leg

The names of the legs are logical and based on the relative wind seen looking at a runway directed towards the wind.



Downwind leg can be translated into multiple languages for ease of communication. Below are some of them;

Italian- gamba sottovento

Dutch- benedenwinds been

German- Gegenwind-Bein

Spanish- cama a favor del vent

French- branche sous le vent



Some synonyms include:

  • Leeward
  • Crosswind
  • Into-the-wind
  • To-leeward
  • To-windward



  • Upwind
  • Windward
  • Against the wind
  • Into the wind


Use Cases

  • “If remaining in the taxiway, begin the downwind leg turn after the runway arrival end within 300 feet.”
  • “Regarding the definition of a downwind leg, the AIM made this absolutely clear on page 40, sub-section 3.5 in the manual.”
  •  I released the push-to-talk after announcing my downwind leg on the radio.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is a downwind and crosswind?

It’s simple. Any airplane flying upwind moves in the direction of the wind. To fly crosswind means moving in a direction across the wind. To fly downwind means heading in the direction of the wind, just like blown smoke.

How do you know if it’s upwind or downwind?

In upwind, the direction the wind is coming from is the Northwest (moving toward the Southeast) while in the upwind direction, the wind direction moves toward the Northwest and the downwind direction is toward the Southeast.

What is an Upwind leg?

This is a flight path which is parallel to the landing runway. Many people often mistake the upwind leg for the departure leg. They are both distinct and separate. Upwind leg is mostly used to reference the flight path after takeoff.



There you go. I believe I’ve given you the meaning of the downwind leg and how it’s applied in aviation. There are other ways the downwind leg can be applied, both in sailing ships and in the popular golf sport. But that’ll have to be another day.

For further emphasis, Downwind leg is a flight route or path that operates in the opposite direction of the runway. Basically, you’re flying or landing in the direction of the wind.

The comment section will be open to your questions and suggestions or detailed insights.


Downwind Leg Explained (Video)




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