By Mike Bliss
Although much attention has been given in the last few years to the topic of runway incursions by those in and out of commercial pilot programs, it continues to be a problem, one that can potentially have very serious consequences. The key to avoiding such incursions is to make sure you fully understand the clearances that you receive. It should always be your practice to have the airport diagram chart in hand prior to taxi. Trace your clearance on the chart to make sure you understand exactly what to do and as always, when in doubt, ask for clarification. Don’t allow any concern such as appearing to be unprofessional or worrying about a busy controller cause you to act on a clearance in which you have any doubt.
Remember, be careful not to confuse “Hold short” which means to stop behind the runway hold short line, with “Line up and wait” which authorizes you to taxi onto the runway and stop awaiting takeoff clearance.
Evidence has shown that some runways incursions have resulted when two runways have similar headings and multiple or confusing intersections. If that is the case, make sure you pay careful attention to all runway signs and markings. A helpful trick to avoid entering the wrong runway is to set the heading bug to the assigned runway. Before you enter the runway make sure that the heading bug is going to align with the runway heading after lining up. If not, do not enter the runway until you are positive it is the assigned runway.
If you are in doubt, STOP and ask for clarification. By keeping your head in the game and questioning any clearance you do not fully understand, you will not find yourselves among runway incursion statistics.