Stop That Airplane!

It’s so easy to feel rushed when taxiing around a busy towered airport. After receiving that initial taxi clearance, you are on a mission: get to the runway via taxiways Mike, Tango, give way to the Cessna on Juliet, then Juliet to 36-Center. Right, off we go. But sometimes things happen that will throw a wrench in the ground controller’s plan, and that’s OK!

Suppose you’re taxiing in a busy environment and a problem comes up. Maybe the heading indicator is acting goofy. Or perhaps you just got rerouted and you need time to reprogram the GPS. Don’t half-pay-attention to the taxi whilst taking care the issue. Just give the ground controller a shout: “Ground, Diamond 123MT, we have a maintenance issue, where would you like us to pull over and stop?”

It’s that simple.

Ground controllers are used to these sorts of requests, and they can be quite accommodating. You can usually expect a new taxi clearance to get you out of the way unless the airport has a run-up  / de-ice pad at the end of the runway. Once you are ready to go, call ground and let them know your location and intent to continue.

This may seem like common sense to you, and it should be. But a lot of pilots (including a younger, less experienced version of myself) feel pressured to follow ATC instructions to a tee. And if you get task-saturated, then so-be-it.

Unfortunately, this attitude only compromises safety of flight. Taxiing heads-down is always a bad idea, even in a two pilot flight crew. Furthermore, if you start out behind the airplane, imagine how far behind you’ll be in the air. It’s best to come to a stop and get everything straightened out before proceeding to the runway. Give yourself a head-start and stay ahead of the airplane!

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About the author
Pat Flannigan is a professional pilot and aviation blogger. He has been flying for fifteen years and is currently working as an airline pilot in the United States.

2 Replies to Stop That Airplane!

  1. Pilot says:

    Your advice is spot on Pat, great article. I have witnessed this type of situation with less experienced pilots many times in my home country of Australia. Interestingly though it is a problem for many national pilots from Asian airlines. It is an important principle for them to do exactly what they are told, which leads into the situation you have described in your article.

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