The Hidden Dangers of Taxiing on Runways

Stay alert to avoid some likely risks on the runway.

Tip Runway Hidden Dangers

Tip Runway Hidden Dangers

It's never a good idea to use a taxiway as a runway (though it's happened plenty of times). But as you probably know controllers will frequently instruct pilots to do just the opposite — that is, use a runway as a taxiway. We normally accept these special taxi clearances without giving much thought to the safety considerations beyond the obvious one: that an airplane might be about to takeoff or land on a runway we've just been cleared to taxi onto.

But there's another, far more likely danger to think about. Runways are generally much wider than taxiways, and as a result seeing signs at their edge can be surprisingly difficult. In a number of cases pilots have taxied beyond their turnoff point because they saw what was on a distant sign too late.

Pilots tend to taxi faster on runways than taxiways, exacerbating this problem. Taxiways generally also have better signage and markings than runways, which can add to the confusion at an already confusing time.

The FAA is urging pilots to exercise increased vigilance when issued such clearances. Electronic airport diagrams that depict your location can be a great help in these cases. And as always, if you start to get an uneasy feeling about where you are or where you're supposed to go, ask the controller for clarification.

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