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IFR Fix: 'My first ever runway incursion'

You have your clearance, have made the “go” decision, and are taxiing toward the active runway. Gusty winds and rain are making this a more demanding task than usual; if anything unexpected comes up such as a last-minute routing change or an anomalous indication on the panel, will you be able to sort everything out without  error?

Wind and turbulence are notorious for complicating control and compromising comfort. But wind’s distractive powers exceed the obvious. Even before your aircraft ever leaves the ground, wind can stymie systems, foster false alarms, even get a glass cockpit and its human tenants at odds. Take the case of a runway incursion brought on by so many distractions during the taxi phase that it would seem the invention of a sadistic simulator operator.

It was real life, not a simulation, when the captain of a Cessna Citation Sovereign bizjet juggled myriad aggravations while taxiing for takeoff—using an iPad for taxi-route guidance—in “shifting winds and heavy rain,” toward Runway 19 at Farmingdale, New York’s Republic Airport.

While struggling to re-engage a gust lock, the pilots asked for a wind check, then requested Runway 14.

"My partner went heads down to change the FMS," but the unit "would not accept it because it said the winds were out of limits," the pilot reported to the Aviation Safety Reporting System.

The captain stopped taxiing to subdue the FMS. Another wind check brought another runway-change request. As the aircraft began to move again, an autopilot-fail warning appeared, and erratic behavior was observed in the angle-of-attack system vein indicator.

Just then an emergency locator transmitter activated somewhere nearby, adding to the chaos. The runway incursion occurred when the confused captain began to cross Runway 19 on a westerly taxi heading instead of crossing Runway 14 taxiing northbound, as the route required. (Learn more about the hazards of being distracted while taxiing in this Runway Safety online course.)

"I obviously didn't look at the runway sign. We did however look both ways to make sure it was clear to cross," the pilot reported, noting, "This was my first ever runway incursion. I am usually very diligent with my taxiing and aware of my surroundings."

The flight finally departed after 30 minutes total delay—and one more runway change.

Dan Namowitz
Dan Namowitz
Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 35-year AOPA member.
Topics: IFR, Technique, Training and Safety

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