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Runway Incursion Tip Sheet

by Darren Smith, CFII/MEI
from IFR Checkride Reviewer, March 2006
Updated December 2008
CFIDarren Newsletter, June 30, 2010 (Updated Again)
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Runway Incursions:  Runway Incursions | Runway Incursion Solutions

What’s a Runway Incursion? 

As of November, 2008, a runway incursion is defined as:  "Any occurrence at an aerodrome involving the incorrect presence of an aircraft, vehicle or person on the protected area of a surface designated for the landing and take off of aircraft."
Top Three Prevention Tips
  1. Use a taxi diagram
  2. Follow ATC instructions
  3. Learn signs & markings

This change was promulgated to harmonize our rules with ICAO.  The previous rule required a loss of separation.  The new rule does not require loss of separation, only an "incorrect presence".


At all airports
  • Anticipate runway in use from ATIS/AWOS reports, then…
  • Familiarize yourself with the airport diagram
  • Before leaving the ramp
  • For airport of origin and destination
  • Have taxi diagram available during ground movement
  • Learn standard signs and markings, see inside back cover.
  • Look both ways entering or crossing runways & expedite off them
  • Maintain situational awareness – don’t do checklists while moving, heads up always.
  • Minimize heads-down duties while moving.
  • Do not make configuration changes or execute checklists while moving (to avoid distraction) unless you're part of a multi-crew flightdeck.
At towered airports
  • Use standard pilot/controller terminology
  • Listen carefully & read back full clearance including runway numbers and holding positions.   Remember that a clearance to taxi to a runway is not a clearance to enter that runway.
  • Ask for “progressive” taxi assistance if necessary
  • If in doubt, STOP & ASK
  • Look for light gun signals if you have any hint of radio troubles.
  • When advised to “hold short,” “position & hold,” and “cleared for takeoff” requires a full read-back including runway numbers.
  • When landing, do not turn off the active runway onto another runway, exit only onto taxiways.
Hold Short:  do not cross from the solid lines side without a clearance.

Hold Short Lines

At non-towered airports
  • Use radio to listen to other traffic.
  • Use radio to make your position & intentions known as necessary. See radio communications at non-towered airports for more info.
  • Remember some users don’t have radios, your eyes are the best safety resource.
  • Clear yourself visually prior to departing the ramp, along the taxi route, and prior to entering the active runway. This also applies to procedures after landing: clear of the active runway, cross other runways and taxiways only after assuring that other aircraft is not using them.
The Administrator has identified incursions as one of the top safety priorities that all FAA personnel must address.  For 2005, the FAA has initiated another runway incursions safety program due to the increased statistics.   See www.faa.gov/runwaysafety

Best Practices in Aircraft Lighting Usage

Phase of Flight

Lights in Use

Engines Running

Aircraft Beacon On

Evening, Sunset to Sunrise

Position Lighting On


All exterior lighting ON* (Landing light optional)

Position & Hold

All exterior lighting ON

Takeoff, Landing

All exterior lighting ON

Climb out / Descent

All exterior lighting ON

Cruise Flight

Landing or Taxi Light ON (FAA Bird Strike Study cites 80% less bird strikes, NTSB Midair Collision Study cites 37% less midair collisions)

 *Exceptions:  Strobe lights off at night so as not to blind other pilots

Taxi Phraseology

Acknowledge – Let me know that you have received my instruction.

Advise intentions – Tell me what you are going to do.

Affirmative – yes

Negative – No

Hold for… – (could be: landing traffic, IFR clearance, release, take off clearance) means don’t move.

Immediately – do it now or there could be trouble.

Expedite – means hurry up or there could be problems. Also used: “Without Delay”

Standby – means please wait.

Position & Hold – means go out on the runway indicated and wait for a takeoff clearance. 

Read Back –  means repeat what I’ve told you.

Roger – I understand, but it does not mean yes or no.

Wilco – I understand & will comply.

Unable – not able to comply or approve your request/instruction.

Verify… - used to request confirmation.  “Verify assigned heading.”

If you wait a long time, just ask.

Radio Frequencies

While there are always exceptions to the rule, this table should give you a general idea of where certain services are available on the radio dial.  Always consult a current Airport/Facility Directory for the appropriate frequencies.

Emergency 121.5
Military VHF 126.2
Helicopter Air-to-Air 123.025
Airplane Air-to-Air 122.75/122.85
Multicom 122.9
Unicom (Towered Airports) 122.95
Unicom (Non-Towered Airports):  122.7/
Ground Control (Towered Airports):
FSS:  Flight watch 122.0  Other Common Freq:

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