Dick Collins' Big Airport Checklist

What you should know before you take off or land in a busy airport.

Study the airspace. Look at the standard terminal arrival procedures and departure procedures as well as the approaches. If you don't think that is important, look at the VOR or GPS to Runways 13L and 13R at KJFK and tell me you'd like to fly that approach cold.

  • Study the airport diagram and locate general aviation parking.
  • Not all busy airports are predominantly airline, so study up before you go to Teterboro or Van Nuys, to name a couple.
  • Don't go to a beehive at night unless you are familiar with the airport. The view from a light airplane can be of a sea of blue lights.
  • Don't cross any yellow lines unless you are absolutely and positively sure it is OK to do so. Be a pest and ask the controller anytime you have a question.
  • Bone up on wake turbulence avoidance procedures.
  • If going VFR, spend the $4.25 for a VFR terminal area chart and study it in advance. Look at the regulations on the airspace, too.
  • If instrument rated, go IFR. It is easier.
  • IFR or VFR, don't plan on arriving with minimum fuel. Even with no holding, vectors can add a lot of time to the flight.
  • Make sure the batteries in your ANR headset are fresh.
  • Don't go if a request to keep the speed up on final upsets your applecart. Remember that after a fast dive-bomber approach you still have to make a normal landing.
  • Always ask yourself if there is a better place to go.