Line Up and Wait” in Preparation for Takeoff

Line Up and Wait” in Preparation for Takeoff
You do it at the movie theater, the supermarket, as well as your favorite coffee shop on the way to work: You line up and wait. And, after September 30, 2010, you may also be asked to do it at your local towered airport.

Designed to help simplify and standardize air traffic control (ATC) phraseology, as well as to comply with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards, U.S. controllers will use the term “line up and wait” in place of “position and hold” when instructing a pilot to taxi onto a departure runway and wait for takeoff clearance. Both current and future versions of the phrase are used when takeoff clearance cannot immediately be issued, either because of traffic or other reasons.

Why “line up and wait?” The phrase has actually been in use by a majority of ICAO contracting states for many years. It has proven useful with many non-native English speakers who can sometimes confuse “position and hold” with similar-sounding phrases like “position and roll,” “position at hold,” or “hold position.” Misinterpretation of this instruction can have serious consequences. Using “line up and wait” helps avoid ambiguity and keeps the global aviation community accountable to the same standard.

Here’s an example of the phrase in use: Tower: “Cessna 1234, Runway Three Four Left, line up and wait.”
Pilot: “XYZ Tower, Cessna 1234, Runway Three Four Left, line up and wait.”

At press time, this change was expected to take effect September 30, 2010. The specific date and additional details will be communicated via updates to the Aeronautical Informational Manual (AIM) and Pilot/Controller Glossary, both located under the Air Traffic section of

Other changes have also made their way into standard ATC lexicon. Effective June 30, 2010, air traffic controllers no longer use the term “taxi to” when authorizing an aircraft to taxi to an assigned takeoff runway. Now, controllers must issue explicit clearances to pilots crossing any runway (active/inactive or closed) along the taxi route. In addition, pilots crossing multiple runways must be past the first runway they are cleared
to cross before controllers can issue the next runway-crossing clearance.

As you may recall, previous “taxi to” clearances authorized pilots to cross any runway along the assigned route.
One exception to the new rule is at airports where taxi routes between runway centerlines are fewer than 1,000 feet apart. In this case, multiple runway crossings may be issued if approved by the FAA Terminal Services Director of Operations.

The elimination of the “taxi to” phrase will apply only to departing aircraft. Arriving aircraft will still hear the phrase “taxi to” when instructed to taxi to the gate or ramp. However, controllers in these situations still will be required to issue specific crossing instructions for each runway encountered on the taxi route.

Remember, if you’re unsure of any ATC instruction or clearance you’ve heard, contact ATC immediately. It’s always better to check and be certain. And, remember to “line up and wait.”

For More Information:

Pilot/Controller Glossary
Aeronautical Informational Manual (AIM)
Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP)

Editor’s Note: We’re not sure how Line Up and  Wait” is clearer than Position and Hold…………….