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On The Ground and On Your Own

Congratulations! You successfully navigated to a busy controlled airport, handled all the radio work, and even landed on the correct runway.Congratulations! You successfully navigated to a busy controlled airport, handled all the radio work, and even landed on the correct runway. Now what? After landing, you need to get off the runway as soon as practical. Unfortunately, safely getting off the runway and getting to a parking spot without getting lost can be just as challenging as the flight to the airport. Here’s how to do it with the least confusion and hassle...

FIRST: Don't skid or set your brakes on fire, but slow down quickly and find the first available taxiway exit. The taxiway exit will have a yellow line that is painted on the runway, parallel with the runway centerline. As the exit approaches, the yellow line gradually turns off the centerline and leads to the taxiway.

Caution 1: Be sure to look for that yellow line. Don't make a turn without it or you may very well be turning down another active runway! If you miss one turn off, do *not* stop, turn around and go back, but rather keep your speed up and go to the next exit. Sometimes a turn onto another runway or a 180-degree taxi-back can be made, but only with specific permission from the control tower.

NEXT: After leaving the runway, keep rolling until you have *crossed over* the hold lines. To be officially clear of the runway, your entire airplane must be on the taxiway side of the hold lines -- make sure it is before you stop.

Caution 2: Sometimes, there will be limited space and completely crossing the hold line may have you protruding into the crossing taxiway. Sticking half out onto a taxiway does not feel right, but it would be better to stop another airplane on the ground than to force an airplane on final approach to go-around because you did not complete clear the runway.

CONSIDERATIONS AND BASIC GEOGRAPHY: Most runways will have a parallel taxiway and that taxiway will have a letter for identification. The runway will have several short perpendicular taxiways that connect the runway with the parallel taxiway. All these serve as the runway exits and are called taxiway extensions. These will each have a taxiway letter and an extension number. If the parallel taxiway is A (alpha), the first exit will be A1 (alpha one), next A2 (alpha two) and so forth.

When you turn off the runway, be sure to note which extension you have used to exit. Cross the hold line and contact ground control. Your first transmission to ground to indicate the runway you just landed on and your taxiway extension: 'Nashville ground, N1234A, Clear of runway 20L at Tango Six.' This procedure is safe and professional.

THE FAILSAFE: If you’re ever unsure of your position on the field or need help getting from here to your final destination on the airport, ask for 'progressive taxi instructions.' The tower will guide you to exactly where you need to be.

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About This Author:
Paul A. Craig is a Gold Seal Multiengine and Instrument Flight Instructor. He currently holds a total of 11 Flight Certificates including his ATP. Craig is a previous winner of the North Carolina and Tennessee Flight Instructor of the Year award, the NCVT Outstanding Teacher award and has served as the regional representative of the National Air and Space Museum. Craig is an FAA Aviation Safety Counselor and the author of eight books, including Pilot In Command, The Killing Zone: How and Why Pilots Die, and Controlling Pilot Error: Situational Awareness (all from McGraw Hill).
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