Safety Publications/Articles

Touring The Airport

And Staying Out Of Trouble

You would have to be living on another planet not to realize the importance the FAA is placing these days on preventing runway incursions. A vast FAA and industry campaign has been launched to increase awareness of the danger of collisions at busy airports with intersecting runways.

While the majority of fatal runway incursion accidents involve major air carriers, general aviation still accounts for more than half of the incidents. Examiners have been directed to include runway safety as a mandatory area to be tested during the oral exam for the private pilot checkride.

The AOPA Air Safety Foundation is providing airport taxi diagrams and an interactive runway incursion tutorial and quiz on its Web site ( These Web-based programs provide excellent material for instructors to use when training students for any certificate or rating. Hopefully, instructors are providing special emphasis during student training on runway signs, markings, lights, and land-and-hold-short operations (LAHSO).

I was recently giving dual instruction to a student pilot at a towered airport with intersecting runways. We had been reviewing the airport taxi diagram and looking at examples of runway signs and markings. I asked the student how he would proceed if given instructions to taxi to each of the four possible runway choices. I asked where he would hold short and under what conditions he would be cleared to cross a runway. After I was satisfied that he had a good grasp of the runway safety issues, we left the FBO to board the training aircraft.

As we were doing the preflight, I noticed two Cessna 152s each taxiing to different runways. When I looked again they were on their way to other runways. Then they seemed to be taxiing all over the place. My immediate thought was that either the tower or the pilots or both were really fouled up. It wasn't until we turned on the radios that I realized what was happening. Each of the Cessna 152s had a student and an instructor on board. The instructors had requested the tower to provide them with instructions to taxi to various runways, providing hold-short points and clearances to cross runways. I thought, What a great way for students to get real life experience navigating on an airport. This isn't the least expensive way to teach runway safety, and the tower may not always have the time to provide this service, but the technique beats hands down sitting at home trying to visualize taxi procedures from an airport taxi diagram. And it can be especially valuable practice at night when navigating through the maze of airport lights may be an added challenge.

I had not planned to cover runway incursions during this lesson, but to make use of an unusually cooperative tower controller, I had the student request the most difficult to reach runway for takeoff. (There was virtually no wind.) Along the route to our runway we crossed four taxiways and one runway. On some we were asked to hold short, on others we were cleared to cross. This was valuable training.

With more aircraft operations using the same amount of airport concrete, runway safety must not be taken lightly. As instructors, we are a major factor in sensitizing our students to the hazards of operating at busy airports. Taxi practice; airport diagrams; knowing runway signs, markings, and lights; and above all looking carefully before taxiing are tools that can prevent the meeting of metal at our airports.

By Richard Hiner

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