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Training Tip: Teaching incursion aversionTraining Tip: Teaching incursion aversion

It’s dawn at a nontowered airport as two early-rising pilots prepare for their flights. Both have checked the windsock and plan to depart on Runway 32—but that’s where the similarities of their departure methods end.

While taxiing to the runway, keep the journey in mind over the destination. Image courtesy of Google Earth.

Compare what happens next. The first pilot fires up and taxis out. A few minutes later, a takeoff announcement is heard on the common traffic advisory frequency and the airplane is seen climbing to the northwest.

The second airplane starts and makes its way from the ramp onto the taxiway that parallels Runway 14/32. As the airplane begins to roll, the solo student pilot at the controls follows flight-school procedure and broadcasts intentions to taxi to Runway 32 for takeoff.

Airports are communities of aviators, and the student pilot has been taught that the local helicopter enterprise frequently uses the parallel taxiway for its operations. Safety for all is enhanced by reporting the taxiing airplane’s location and intended movement.

Studying the airport’s image, notice that eventually the taxiing airplane will reach the spot where the parallel taxiway leading to Runway 32 crosses the northeast edge of Runway 7/25. Although the Runway 25 threshold is displaced about 300 feet beyond where the taxiway crosses, the student pilot nonetheless comes to a full stop, scans carefully in both directions, and broadcasts intention to cross Runway 25, before proceeding across.

I observed this safety-first operation on a recent visit to the airport and was impressed with its practicality.

Don’t underestimate the risk of runway incursions at nontowered airports. Had this been a towered airport, taxi clearances would specify how to proceed on this taxi route, as summarized on page 14-33 of the Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge: Air traffic control “is required to issue explicit instructions to ‘cross’ or ‘hold short’ of each runway. Instructions to ‘cross’ a runway are normally issued one at a time, and an aircraft must have crossed the previous runway before another runway crossing is issued.”

ATC expects you to read back runway hold-short instructions. “Therefore, you must read back the entire clearance and ‘hold short’ instruction, to include runway identifier and your call sign,” the chapter notes.

The great care practiced by pilots and controllers at towered airports should motivate you to take equivalent precautions when operating in a less-structured airport environment. Knowing that the uncommunicative pilot who was the day’s first departure hasn’t returned to land yet should stand as sufficient reminder to stay alert.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: Student, Flight Training
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