Coming soon: New taxi procedures

May 13, 2010

Beginning June 30, air traffic controllers will be required to issue specific runway crossing instructions for each runway to be crossed. Controllers will no longer use the familiar “taxi to runway XX” phraseology, which currently allows an aircraft to cross all runways intersecting its route to the departure runway. The elimination of the “taxi to” phrase will apply only to departing aircraft. Arriving aircraft will still hear the phrase “taxi to” when instructed to taxi to the gate or ramp; however, controllers in these situations still will be required to issue specific crossing instructions for each runway encountered on the taxi route.

After the change is enacted on June 30, taxi instructions will start with the assigned runway, then specify the taxi route and any initial runway crossing and/or hold short instructions. For example: “ Cessna 4GA, Runway 36L, taxi via Alpha, Charlie, cross Runway 13, hold short of Runway 27.” If multiple runways intersect the route to the departure runway, the controller will not simultaneously issue all the crossing clearances. For instance, in the example above, the controller would not have cleared the aircraft to cross both Runway 13 and Runway 27 at the same time. However, an exception may be made in cases where the distance between two runway centerlines is less than 1,000 feet.

Prior to the changeover, pilots should take time to review the new procedures and phraseology. Here are a few real-world examples of the changes (click on the airport name to view the airport diagram):

Situation 1: Lincoln Airport, Lincoln, Neb., taxiing from the east ramp to Runway 14, no other traffic.

Old: Taxi to Runway 14 via Echo, Delta, Bravo.
New: Runway 14, taxi via Echo, Delta, Bravo, cross Runway 17, hold short of Runway 18.
Notes: Under the new system, the controller would wait until the aircraft has crossed Runway 17, then issue a subsequent clearance to cross Runway 18.

Situation 2: Long Beach/Daugherty Field, Long Beach, Calif., taxiing from the terminal to Runway 30, traffic on approach to Runway 25L.

Old: Taxi to Runway 30 via Charlie, Lima, hold short of Runway 25L.
New: Runway 30, taxi via Charlie, Lima, hold short of Runway 25L.
Notes: In both cases, the controller would issue a subsequent clearance to cross Runway 25L.

Situation 3: Baltimore/Washington International, Baltimore, Md., taxiing from the GA ramp to Runway 22, no other traffic.

Old: Taxi to Runway 22 via Kilo.
New: Runway 22, taxi via Kilo, cross Runway 15L.
Notes: Under the new system, a specific clearance is given to cross Runway 15L.

Situation 4: Crystal Airport, Minneapolis, Minn., taxiing from the southwest ramp to Runway 24R, no other traffic.

Old: Taxi to Runway 24R via Echo, Alpha, Delta.
New: Runway 24R, taxi via Echo, Alpha, Delta, cross Runway 32L, cross Runway 32R.
Notes: Because the parallel runways are less than 1,000 feet apart, the controller may issue a single clearance to cross both.

Situation 5: San Antonio International Airport, San Antonio, Texas, after landing Runway 12L taxiing to the FBO on the far south part of the airport east of Runway 03.

Old: Taxi to parking via Romeo.
New: Taxi to parking via Delta, Golf, November, Foxtrot, cross Runway 12R, hold short of Runway 3.
Notes: The controller will issue subsequent instructions to cross Runway 3. If you receive “taxi to parking” instructions and you approach the hold lines for a runway, you must have a clearance to cross a runway. If not, you are expected to stop at the holding position marking.

The bottom line is that whether an aircraft is inbound or outbound, controllers are required to issue a specific clearance for each and every runway crossed or operated on. If in doubt about whether to cross a runway, always stop and ask!