This thread has been a great discussion and this post contains a lot of "what is wrong with aviation these days".I prefer to call it wisdom, or it might just be a case of being old and set in my ways, but either way I'm with Bob on most of this.
Straight in approaches? Just "No".
Long straight in approaches are necessary for most instrument practice, but way too many pilots seem to thing reporting in on the CTAF 6-7 miles out AND calling it a 6 or 7 mile "final" approach is acceptable. It really isn't, especially when there are other planes approaching or in the pattern.
Most pilots are notoriously bad at estimating distance. Worse, if the expectation is to call in 6-7 miles out and they forgot, there is a temptation to call it 6 or 7 when it's really only 3 or 4 miles. That makes a difference to a pilot on downwind thinking he has time to make his base turn and come down final and land before the other plane is in the pattern. Worst case you have a mid air. Best case, the guy on downwind, who is technically closer to the runway than even if the guy reporting "6 mile" final is only 3 miles out, has just been cut off by a jerk who thinks a long final is ok.
It's both safer and much more courteous to do an upwind entry and see for sure who's in the pattern and where.
Extended base to landing? An even bigger "No".
Again it's a set up to cut people off in the pattern, especially aircraft that are no radio that you may not know about.
Instead of calling in on base 6-7 miles out, maneuver 45 or so degrees left, descend to pattern altitude, turn 90 degrees right and and enter at a 45 degree angle to the downwind, yielding and adjusting if needed to any traffic on downwind.
IMHO, both lead to other bad habits.
I was always taught to fly the pattern in a single engine airplane close enough that I could make the runway if I lost the engine. Yet I see at least half the traffic at most uncontrolled airports with long runways flying the downwind leg a mile or two away from the runway, and flying the downwind leg 2-3 miles past the runway threshold. In the event of an engine failure in the "traffic pattern" (and I use that term loosely in their case), they are landing off the runway and quite possibly entirely off the airport.
It's annoying to take proper sequence behind an airplane on downwind, and then watch that plane fly 3 miles past the runway before turning base for a 3 mile final. I end up having to fly well beyond my own safe gliding distance in the pattern ti stay behind them, even if I slow way down. Slowing way down would also create a cascade effect if there is anyone behind me.
Don't get me wrong, there is a place for the 3 mile final. For example, with a 3 degree glide slope you descend about 300' per mile, and for a non precision approach or at night in less than stellar visibility, knowing when you are on the glide slope and can start the descent to the runway on final can be handy to prevent a premature descent into an intervening object.
However, way too many pilots seem to think they need to roll out of their base turn onto final and be on glide slope in severe clear VFR conditions. That leaves them turning base 2-3 miles past the threshold.
The fact is, in a light aircraft in an uncontrolled airport traffic pattern in VFR conditions, you need to pretty much ignore the VASI/PAPI lights.
In my opinion a lot of the bad habits we are talking about at non-towered airports come from those of us who fly at airports with towers.
"Make right traffic"? Check
"Report on a 2 mile left base"? Check
"Enter on the downwind"? Check
"Depart on the upwind leg"? Yep
"Make straight in. Report on a 2 mile final" All day long
See the scope creep? As instructors we don't do a good job of pounding on the differences between towered and non-towered arrivals and departures. Radio calls? Sure, we teach that. And we do a pretty good job of coaching students on what instructions the tower might issue us depending on the direction we're approaching the airport from (for example, I can say I have NEVER been issued a teardrop entry at a towered airport).
We also do a poor job of explaining why it's okay for some guy to call six miles straight in over some mysterious waypoint we hear on the radio but it's not on our sectionals. At towered airports we can just mind our own business and follow instructions but at a non-towered airport many pilots think a King Air on a 6 mile straight in is just being an a**. I can remember being a complete cherry working the pattern and doing some go arounds. The plane on final called a "missed approach" and was given instructions, so I asked my instructor if I should be doing the same. He looked at me like my hair was on fire and said "no, that's an instrument thing". At first he said "they'll figure it out", but then later taught me the aviate, navigate, communicate thing and how I might have the bandwidth to key the mic and say "going around" after I have positive rate on that last notch of flaps.
Size of the traffic patterns
Different subject than direction of arrival and comms, but you struck on my major pet peeve. At my airport we have one large mom & pop FBO and an ATP school. All of us not wearing epaulets joke about the 2 mile wide patterns flown by ATP pilot candidates. They're seriously in another county when they turn base. The FBO isn't much better. Look, we were all students at one point and we all sucked at flying the pattern. I was taught to put the runway through the middle of my wing strut at 1000' AGL and turn base when the numbers were 45 degrees behind me. Of course I was task saturated and that seemed like a lofty goal in the early days.
But if you're working on your commercial rating you should be able to keep it "high and tight" and stay within slam dunk gliding range should the fan quit. We don't get that from ATP or most of those other FBO products.
Here's a historic tidbit that most modern pilots would freak out over: Back in the day, the standard traffic pattern for a DC-3 was 800' and a 1/4 mile out on downwind. A tight pattern was 600' and 1/8 mile. I could fly a 600' 1/8 mile pattern in my Citabria no problem, but the T-6? My seat cushion would need a real good ironing to get the crease out.
We've pussified pilots to be scared of 20 degrees of bank, we teach canned stall procedures that have NOTHING to do with the stalls the actually kill people - and the ACS has made it worse. People now use the expression "stick and rudder flying" like it's an add on skill.