Find Your Way on the Surface

Making sense of taxi instructions.

Piper Aircraft Taxiing

Piper Aircraft Taxiing

Piper Aircraft

When you’re at an unfamiliar airport and you get taxi instructions as you’re sitting among a maze of taxiways, it’s easy to be lost and a bit confused even as you’re sitting still. So here are a couple of tips to help you feel found and confident instead.

Have a chart handy. I use one of my favorite iPad apps with geo-referenced airport diagram, so I can tell where I am. But a chart made of...what is that material called? Oh yeah, “paper,” can work too. The point is, use a chart!

I also write down the taxi clearance. Bravo four to Alpha three cleared to cross Runway one seven, hold short of two zero is not an easy thing to remember. Write it down.

Here’s the trick that will solve your problem. Work backward. Start figuring out where you’re going by looking at where you’re going to end up. If, for instance, you know you’re going to Runway 7, then see on the chart where the departure end for Runway 7 (or the intersection on it to which you’ve been cleared) is in relation to where you are. The succession of taxiways that you wrote down will likely suddenly make a whole lot more sense.