As a pilot, how you maneuver an aircraft on the ground is just as important as how you handle it in the air. This is especially true when taxiing on busy runways and ramps, which pose unique hazards for aircraft operators and ground personnel alike.
While taxiing is one of the first skills student pilots learn, it’s no time to let your guard down. Refresh your technique with these reminders for safe taxiing:
Situational awareness is something pilots need to practice at all times. Be aware of everything on the runway and ramp, including other aircraft, people, vehicles, debris, and even wildlife. While taxiing, use your peripheral vision to scan continuously for potential hazards or obstacles.
Situational awareness applies when you’re outside the aircraft, too. Pay attention when you’re walking or standing on the ramp, use marked pedestrian walkways, and never assume that an aircraft operator can see you.
The powerful wind coming off from behind your aircraft propeller can pose hazards on runways and off-airport strips. Prop wash can quickly damage equipment, hangar doors, and other aircraft — especially light aircraft — if they’re caught behind your airplane.
On gravel strips, prop wash can cause foreign object debris like sand and loose rocks to fly up behind your aircraft, posing danger to other aircraft and people. Always be aware of what’s behind your aircraft, and the strength and direction of your prop wash when starting up and taxiing.
While there is no set taxi speed limit, the slower you taxi, the easier it is to react to other airplanes, vehicles, or obstacles in your path. When operating at an unfamiliar airport, it’s a good idea to taxi slower than you might normally. Taxiing should be uneventful, so take it easy and don’t rush.
Taxiing is really nothing like driving, but ideally, both should be distraction-free. A 2015 study found that within incidents involving aircraft taxiing for departure, 40 percent of pilots reported “distraction in the cockpit” at the time of the incident. The moral of the story is to focus on the task at hand while taxiing, not setting up your flight deck or talking to passengers.
Maintaining clear communication is important while taxiing, too. Read back taxi instructions from the controller, including runway assignments and any clearance to enter, cross, or hold short of a runway.
Remember, safe taxiing is part of any successful flight. Maintaining good habits and the right mindset on the ground and in the air will go a long way in minimizing risks and improving safety for yourself and others!