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Runway Safety Threat and Error Management

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How to”fly smart” in the airport ground environment? Get a current airport diagram and use it! Here are some tips from FAA SPANS Notice Number: NOTC0932

Line Safety Audits completed by the airlines revealed 23% of errors and 38% of the threats occur before ever leaving the ground.

A crucial part of the flight process is pre-flight planning. Accident analysis reveals that preflight planning is often inadequate or entirely ignored. An important part of this flight process is the obtainment of information for your departure, arrival, and alternate airports. This should include utilizing a current Airport Facility Directory, obtaining current NOTAMs, and having a current Airport Diagram. And not only should we have it, it should be out in plain view and ready for easy reference.

Airports Diagrams are readily available (and FREE!) to download at If you are an aviation nut you must like charts also, especially free charts given to you by Uncle Sam. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), National Aeronautical Charting Office (NACO), publishes and distributes United States government civil aeronautical charts and flight information publications. You can now download or order these charts online.

It is not only important to have a current airport diagram, but to also USE THEM. You should review the airport diagram before taxi while stationary; and then after receiving your taxi clearance, review the diagram again to ensure that you are familiar with the taxi route and any hold short instructions. Red and White signs and markings mean STOP, do not taxi past unless you have been cleared to do so. Use your charts and checklists, and look outside, both on the ground and in the air for other aircraft. Listen for traffic on the radio too, this helps build a mental picture of activity at the field. Just like a railroad crossing, Stop (at least mentally), Look and Listen when approaching all taxiway and runway crossings. ATC can help out and provide progressive taxi instructions when we are unsure of where we are or where we need to go. A few questions up front will save answering a lot of questions later. If there ever is a question, STOP and ASK!

Visit the FAA NACO site to download the entire library of Airport Diagrams and Terminal Procedures…or go to the FBO and pay a lot of money….

You can also check out the award winning online Runway Safety course provided by AOPA. It’s FREE!

One thing that I do is take a yellow highlighter and highlight the area (FBO, Terminal) on the diagram that I am going to. A Nav Log goes a long way on the ground too, so you’re not heads down looking for frequencies while taxiing. When at all possible, do your checklists when stopped, esp if you are single pilot. We also turn on all external lights when crossing an intersecting runway, which is especially effective at night. If you have a TCAS, you can use that on the ground too to build that mental picture of airborne traffic. At a lot of major airports, they now want you to leave your transponder on at all times, so the Airport Movement Area Safety System can electronically see you and keep ATC in the loop.

If you have any special tips and techniques, let’s hear about them.

Fly (and Taxi) Smart


Written by Clark

July 20, 2007 at 9:28 am

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