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A Review of Airfield Safety and FAA Rules

Understanding airfield safety and FAA rules are crucial to avoiding trouble on the runway. According to the FAA, more than 80% of pilot-caused runway incursions occur during taxi to the departure runway. As pilots across the country get ready for spring flying, now is a good time to review some of the FAA’s safety fundamentals.

Pre-Flight Checklist

FAR 91.103 states, "The pilot in command shall, before beginning a flight, become familiar with all available information concerning that flight." 

  • Understand the airfield’s signage and markings.
  • Review airport diagrams, review any hotspots and print a copy for the cockpit.
  • Check for any airfield risks, such as runway closures or construction activity.
  • Explain to passengers the necessity for limited conversation during flight.

Tips for Taxiing
Remember your full attention should be on moving the plane from ramp to runway.

  • Have the airport diagram out and ready to reference.
  • Review the taxi route and the assigned runway on the diagram prior to taxiing.
  • Use proper terminology and phrasing when communicating on the radio.
  • Confirm you have ATC clearance before taxiing.
  • If any confusion on taxi clearance, stop and request ATC clarification.
  • Once cleared by ATC, visually check to ensure there is no conflicting traffic.
  • Remember that hold short lines can be as far as 400 feet from the runway.
  • When taxiing, focus attention, keep eyes outward and maintain correct speed.
  • Be aware of similar call signs in the field.
  • Insist on a quiet/sterile cockpit when taxiing.

Take-Off To-Dos
If ever in doubt, ask ATF!

  • Do "clearing turns" prior to entering any runway.
  • Once cleared for "taxi into position and hold," turn on all exterior lights except take-off/landing lights. 
  • If you have been holding on the runway for more than 90 seconds, or upon seeing a potential conflict, contact ATC.
  • Once "cleared for take-off," turn on all exterior lights, including take-off/landing lights.
  • If assigned a take-off at an intersection, state "intersection departure" at the end of the take-off clearance readback.


  • When preparing to land, follow the "Tips for Taxiing" rules above.
  • Wait until you have exited the active runway and are sure of your taxi clearance before beginning an after-landing checklist.

Additional Airfield Safety Suggestions

  • If you need to adjust something when taxiing, stop the plane and notify ATC.
  • Do not taxi to the hold/short line too quickly.
  • Have your airport diagram ready in case an FAA inspector asks at a ramp check.

Read the full FAA article, "Runway Safety—Pilot Best Practices," click here.

Stay up-to-date at the FAA's Office of Runway Safety page.

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