Understand safe airport operation procedures including airport data, taxi clearances and communication, airport markings and signs, wind indicators, appropriate aircraft lighting, and runway safety.


This is the required reading for this lesson. Numbers in [brackets] indicate the starting and ending page in the referenced reading material. Read all the pages and sections referenced.


The notes below highlight the important parts in the referenced material. Reading the notes without having read the actual referenced material is generally not sufficient to pass the written exam!

Figure 1. Astoria (KAST) Taxi Diagram

Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge

  • Airport data sources for taxi operations:
  • Airport markings and signs:
    • Runways are typically marked with white paint; taxiways in yellow paint.
    • Taxiway signs are either:
      • Black with yellow text (taxiway you are on)
      • Yellow with black text (intersecting taxiway)
    • Hold shorts for the runway are marked by:
      • Runway signs with white letters on a red background.
      • Double solid yellow bars on the hold side; double dashed yellow bars on the runway side.
  • Airport lighting
    • Runways
      • Edge lights: White (amber for the last 2,000 feet on some runways)
      • Centerline: White; alternate white/red when 3,000-1,000 feet remain; red for last 1,000 feet.
      • Lead on/off lights: Alternate green/yellow from runway to taxiway
    • Taxiways
      • Edge lights: Blue
      • Centerline: Green
    • Hold shorts:
      • Runway guard lights: Elevated flashing yellow on either side.
  • Wind indicators
    • Windsock
      • Wind comes from large opening to small end.
      • Takeoff into the wind from small end to large end.
      • Extends fully when wind is 15 knots or greater. (AC 150/5345-27D)
    • Tetrahedron
      • Nose points in the direction of takeoff
    • Wind Tee
      • Takeoff from the tail towards the bar.
  • Radio Communications
    • Taxiways are named using the Phonetic Alphabet.
    • "Hold short". Read back. Taxi up to, but do not cross the hold lines.
    • Must receive clearance to cross any runway. Often given one at a time.
    • "Line up and wait." Read back. Taxi into position on runway. Do NOT takeoff. Wait for further clearance.

Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM)

  • State your position on the airport when calling for taxi.
  • You must read back:
    • The runway assignment.
    • Any clearance to enter a specific runway.
    • Any hold short instruction.
    • Any line up and wait instruction.
  • It is the responsibility of the pilot to avoid collision with other aircraft.
  • If unfamiliar with airport, request progressive taxi instruction (step-by-step routing).
  • Request for taxi prior to departure phraseology:
    • "1Washington ground, 2Beecraft One Three One Five Niner 3at hangar eight, 4ready to taxi, 5V-F-R to 6Chicago with 7Information Echo."
      Legend: 1) ATC facility, 2) Aircraft callsign, 3) Location, 4) "ready to taxi", 5) VFR/IFR, 6) Destination, 7) ATIS information
  • Request for taxi after landing phraseology:
    • "1Washington ground, 2Beecraft One Three One Five Niner 3clear of runway one right at taxiway Bravo, 4request taxi to 5parking."
      Legend: 1) ATC facility, 2) Aircraft callsign, 3) Location, 4) "request taxi", 5) Parking destination
  • Aircraft lighting best practices:
    • Anti-collision/rotating beacon must be on for all operations.
    • Prior to taxi, turn on navigation and anti-collision lights.
    • While taxiing, turn taxi light on. When stopped, turn taxi light off.
    • While taxiing on or across runway, turn all lights on.
    • For "line up and wait," turn all lights on EXCEPT landing lights.
      • When takeoff clearance received, then turn on landing lights.

(FAA) Runway Safety Pilot Simulator

  • Best practices for taxi safety:
    1. Maintain a sterile cockpit and eliminate distractions.
    2. Avoid non-essential tasks and communications.
    3. Use the current airport diagram.
    4. Identify critical locations (hot spots) on the taxi route.
    5. Ensure clearance to cross runway holding position markings.
    6. Look both directions before entering the runway.
    7. Avoid moving or changing items until clear of the runway.
    8. Complete as many checklist items as possible before taxi.

Flightcrew Procedures During Taxi Operations (AC120-74B)

  • Planning your expected taxi route is important, but can result in expectation bias.
  • Remember you must follow the clearance ATC gives, not the one you planned!
  • ATC might need to change your routing during taxi to avoid conflicts. Listen up and be prepared to change if necessary.

Sim Pilot Notes

These notes highlight the differences between simulator and real-world flying. These differences are most often due to simulator limitations or specific VATSIM rules.

  • NOTAMs. On VATSIM, some controllers simulate NOTAMs, others do not, and some leave it up to the pilot.
  • Hold Short Lines. Many simulators incorrectly reverse the markings: the double solid bars are on the runway side, and the double dashed bars are on the taxiway side! In any case, do not cross the lines when told to hold short.
  • Transponder. With the advent of ADS-B, the FAA now recommends pilots turn their transponder to Mode C (Altitude) prior to taxi. This is also a VATSIM Code of Conduct requirement! See the AIM 4-1-20.a.3:
    • "Transponder and ADS-B operations on the ground. Civil and military aircraft should operate with the transponder in the altitude reporting mode… at all airports, any time the aircraft is positioned on any portion of the airport movement area. This includes all defined taxiways and runways."
  • Line up and wait. Sometimes controllers get busy and forget about you. If you are in position on the runway for longer than what seems normal, remind the controller. You don't want to become part of the runway numbers if another aircraft is landing!
  • Taxiing at Uncontrolled Airports. Similar to towered airport phraseology, except you don't need to ask for clearance. Just advise of your position and intended runway.
    • "1Oceano traffic, 2Beecraft One Three One Five Niner 3at hangar eight, 4taxiing to runway one right, 5Oceano."
      Legend: 1) Airport name, 2) Aircraft callsign, 3) Location, 4) Intended runway, 5) repeat airport name (common courtesy)
  • Light Gun Signals. You will not receive light gun signals on VATSIM.
  • Airport Diagrams. Airport diagrams are essential in flight simming since many default airport sceneries are out-of-date. This can result in missing/added taxiways or runways and/or changed taxiway/runway names. VATSIM controllers use the most up-to-date airport layouts, so they will be referencing the current airport diagram. If you only follow what you see in the scenery you may end up on an active runway without knowing it! Part of your sim preflight should be to ensure you have up-to-date scenery. If you discover your scenery is out-of-date while on the network, advise the controller (they can often accommodate older scenery).

Tomas Hansson (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
Chief Flight Instructor, VATSTAR
DISCLAIMER: all information contained herein is for flight simulation purposes only.
March 2021

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