Pilot Insights –

Pilot Insights – What’s Harder? Flying in Class B Airspace or Taxiing at a Complex Airport?

For many of us, landing at an airport in Class C or Class B airspace can be a challenge. For some pilots, talking to radar controllers seems intimidating. But, most pilots who fly into towered airports and who use flight-following on a regular basis find that the talking part does not seem so bad. In fact, most of the students that I take into Class B airspace find that it’s no big deal. It does require being attentive to the radio and listening for instructions regarding headings and altitudes, but these are not much different than calls we receive when in Class D airspace, talking to Tower.

No, most pilots find that their biggest challenge occurs not in the air, but on the ground.

Taxiing at a larger airport can be intimidating. There are often multiple runways, and a lot of taxiways. The taxiways are VERY wide. And, the signs are WAY over to the side. Yes, you can ask for progressive taxi instructions but, if the radio is busy you might end up getting even more frazzled. I can’t make it simple, but I can share some tricks to make the taxi experience much easier.

Start planning your taxi long before take-off.

Every airport in Class B or C airspace has a published airport diagram. If you have any of the aviation flight planning packages, you already have them. But, even without those applications, you can download them for free by typing “approach charts” into your favorite search engine and selecting faa.gov, or AOPA.org, fltplan.com, or airnav.com, just to name a few.

Take a look at that diagram and note the runway you will likely use, the location of the FBO and the likely taxi route. If it is not obvious, make a phone call to the FBO (easy to find on airnav.com) and ask. Then, highlight your expected route on the diagram. (check NOTAMS – some taxiways might be closed.)

STOP the aircraft.

After you land and clear the runway, STOP the aircraft. Get that diagram out, and have it in your hand when you call Ground for a clearance. And, be ready to write down those taxi instructions. Expect Ground to give you a set of instructions such as “Taxi to parking via taxiways Alpha, Alpha One, Delta. Hold short of runway 20, then via Charlie to the ramp.” If you have already looked at the diagram, you will know exactly what the controller expects, and it is easy to run your finger along that route as you repeat it back.

Once you are taxiing, STOP again if you have to do anything other than look out the window and taxi. This includes trying to look at the little blue airplane moving across your “Smart Taxi” app. When you are rolling, you need to be engaged in taxi mode and looking outside.

Know the meaning of runway signs and markings. Remember:

· All taxiways are lettered

· All taxiway signs are black and yellow

· The taxiway you are on has yellow letters on a black background

· The taxiway you are approaching has black letters on a yellow background

· All runways are numbered

· All runway signs have white letters on a red background

The two painted lines on the ground that you really need to remember are:

· The single solid, single dashed line

· The double solid, double dashed line

Most pilots seem to know that the double lines indicate the official entrance to a runway (holding position) and the single lines indicate the official boundary of a taxiway (the area where you need Ground control permission to move). But, I often find confusion when I ask which side is which. If you are approaching a double dashed or double solid line can you cross without asking? Or, is it the other way around?

Here is how I keep it straight in my head. I tell myself that if the first line I see has openings (one or two dashed lines) I can slide through the opening without asking. But, if the first line I see is solid, I need to ask.

Check it out next time you taxi. You will see that as you approach the runway for takeoff, the solid lines are nearer to you than the dashed lines. So, stop and ask for a clearance. However, as you depart the runway after landing, you will see that the dashed lines come first. So slide on through, make sure that your airplane is totally passed the double lines, then stop and ask Ground for a clearance.

Still a little confused? You can download the FAA Quick Reference Guide here: http://www.faa.gov/airports/runway_safety/news/publications/media/QuickReferenceGuideProof8.pdf

Want more information about avoiding those pesky ground problems? Check out this short Runway Safety course from the AOPA Air Safety Institute. Just paste this link into your favorite web browser: http://www.aopa.org/Education/Online-Courses

Christopher Hope
2015 FAASTeam Representative of the Year
To contact the author, go to: www.ChrisHopeFAAFlightInstructor.com
For more information on the GA Awards program go to http://www.generalaviationawards.org/