Too Much Taxi Talk

May 21, 2008 by Bruce Landsberg

Last week we discussed the overcrowding on Common Traffic Advisory Frequencies ( CTAF) especially at non-towered airports. There were some strong opinions on chatter clutter regarding certain ground calls.

Taxi-out, and clear-of-the-runway calls in day VFR conditions are overkill in my view. The FAA implemented these as runway safety took center stage some years back. Presumably solving one problem often creates others – such as frequency congestion. The statistics and the operational realities at most small GA airports do NOT support these AIM recommendations in my view. Paragraph 4-1-9 and Table 4-1-1 in AIM have the recommended radio calls. I was unable to find a recommendation for a taxi-across-the-runway call so someone is being creative.

If conditions are such that pilots can SEE, there is no need for the above calls. On the runway or on approach, you and I should be scanning for conflicts, just like intersections when driving. It is a high-risk, high-alert time but yakking on taxi activities in high density is distracting from the greater need to avoid aircraft actually departing or airborne in the pattern.

There are three common-sense situations when you should speak up when taxiing. During night and IFR conditions where other pilots cannot easily determine if the runway is clear and in day VFR if the airport layout is such that a runway/taxiway intersection is not visible from the departure end.

Bruce Landsberg
Senior Safety Advisor, Air Safety Institute

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  • Dean Gibson

    Leaving the aircraft ID off is not only technically illegal, but means that if someone wants to ask you a question (like “say again”), they have to repeat part of what you said; eg, “aircraft which said, ‘on downwind at Frizzbee’, say again'”.

    The rest are judgment calls. Eg, if you make a “downwind” call and don’t hear anyone else on the freq. at your airport, the other calls are probably unnecessary. On the other hand, if there are several other aircraft operating around/on the airport, additional calls might be necessary. It’s an issue of positional and operational awareness. The overwhelming rule is, “keep it succinct”.

  • Brad Moore

    Excellent discussion. I fly an Aeronca 7AC Champ and my biggest fear near busy airports is being run over by faster aircraft! I let traffic know concisely where I am and what I’m going to do and otherwise I just listen and try to stay out of the way! I will say that on the 4th of July weekend I announced my intention to taxi across the east end of runway 9 from the hanger. As I was about to announce “clear” I looked to my left to see an AT-6 at eye level climbing out behind me on 9. He never announced his intention to taxi, take the runway, depart, or whatever. I didn’t know he was anywhere around. Did he hear me? Was it a close call? Were my calls superfluous? I have flown in an AT-6 and I suspect he never saw me as the vision over the nose is notoriously poor on takeoff. I don’t know if he heard me. All I know is I never heard a word from him and it would have been safer or at least a courtesy if I had.

  • Joe Marley

    My own common sense says CTAF is a limited, unsaveable resource.

    When traffic is very light, I tend to be more verbose on radio calls of all kinds. As CTAF traffic load increases, I abbreviate or don’t transmit messages, from the least important to the most important.

    For example, if I’m the only guy around I very well may announce crosswind when doing touch-and-goes. Add another aircraft or two to the radio traffic, and I’ll quickly omit that leg of the patten to give them more space for their announcements.

    My theory is that when the chatter is missing, the extra calls (or verbage) may help a silent observer to find me : or at least to be aware that I exist. When traffic is heavy, though, all the non-essentials need to go just to give the other traffic chance to give their essentials.

    Last I heard, it was called “sharing”.

  • John Winston

    Yes, please keep all transmissions relevant and brief. No answer doesn’t mean no traffic. Never assume all the aircraft at a non-towered (formerly called “uncontrolled”) have a radio.

    Pilots of Cubs, Champs, Gliders, Ultralights, etc. with no electrical system may not be able to easily use a handheld radio. So SEE and AVOID, and never assume the airplanes you are communicating with paint the entire picture around your airport.

    Stop asking “Traffic in the area, please advise.” The AIM says this call is NOT recognized as valid and “should not be used under any condition” (read your AIM section 4-1-9, paragraph G.) Just because one pilot replies doesn’t mean there aren’t 6 other aircraft in the area. Never trust a Unicom report from a person on the ground inside the FBO. LOOK at the darn windsock and don’t trust AWOS for wind reports either, especially out west where thermal updraft inflows can swing the windsock for a minute or two in another direction from the prevailing wind. Circle the airport above the pattern altitude and take a look at wind and traffic yourself. (You might see an “X” on a runway as well if you haven’t checked NOTAMS.) YOU are the PIC and therefore must figure out the wind on your own, or confirm what someone else told you. It is your decision, so never let another pilot or FBO person play ATC with you at a non-towered airport.

    Assume there ARE no radio aircraft and always yield right-of-way to gliders and the towplanes towing a glider, unless you are on fire. See FAR 91.113.

    Never cut off a glider in the pattern. Rude, dangerous and a violation of FAR’s.
    Note that gliders may be using a right-hand pattern. Only airplanes are required to fly left-hand patterns at non-towered airports. FAR 91.126(b) (Class G airports.)

    Please briefly report your heading, intentions and your altitude MSL. Never set an altimeter to zero feet unless that is the field elevation of the airport (Florida Keys?)

    Gotta go fly my glider now. Watch for me, and yield right-of-way.

  • Lee Allen

    Bruce: You are right on in this matter. God gave us two eyes for a reason, utilize them. You as the PIC are responsible for keeping clear of other aircraft while taxiing out, so just do it! It creates nothing but frequency congestion, which we all know is way too much. This says nothing about the guy who has no electrical system, thus no radio, so pay attention folks. And everyone needs to read AIM 4-1-9g, “traffic in the area please advise” is not to be used under any conditions. You are the PIC, so act like one!

  • Chris Marz


    Position and intentions provide a lot of information for our use. Most can plot the next 10 min of the other pilots location with that data.

    Adjusting to conditions will tailor the length and detail of the call above min. req.

    Past experance in tight spaces, poor vis with additional aircraft at same alt have lead to additional info like “North side of the Hwy over the church”. The other guy knew just were to look.

    Local porocedures lead to other amusing reporting points. ie Southern Seaplane in NO has calls such as “float plane XYZ at the bridge over the cannal, in bound. We all know were that is and can judge how fast and at what alt.

    Use the tools you have to fit the conditions at hand.

  • Bob H.

    From ePIlot 7/25:

    “A departing aircraft is expected to self-announce “before taxiing and before taxiing on the runway for departure.”

    Are you on the same page over there? Expected? Recommended? Or none of the above on taxi. I vote for the latter. Good grief!

  • Bare

    A bit belated here, but the pilot announcing that he was using a different runway than was indicated by ASOS would tell me he was practicing Xwind landings. I do this quite often at one of our local airports where the long runway is 24/6, but it’s quite likely you’ll have a wind out 05 340 at 20 G 30. The preferred runway at that point is 35. I still use 24 or 6 to give my students their Xwind practice. If the other guys (not much traffic there) want to use 35, I’ll give them room. They know I’m there if they are using there radio.
    And not all traffic patterns at non-towered airports are left hand. The one I’m referring to isn’t and there are several others in this area that aren’t.

  • Harry Cool

    In my opinion it is safer to speak up than not say anything. Yes, pilots are supposed to be looking (and listening also). Just because you are looking for something does not mean you will see it! Happens a lot.

  • Bill Stein

    Am I the only person who does not know the meaning of the word “next”? At two different airfields during landing rollout and taxiing to a takeoff runway, I was approaching a taxiway when the controller directed me to “take the next taxiway”. I proceeded past the immediate taxiway to the following taxiway. Both times, the controllers expressed disappointment when I proceeded to the following taxiway and did not turn onto the taxiway nearest me. To me, if tomorrow is Friday, next Friday is a week later. Likewise, a taxiway. The controller should have directed me to turn onto a lettered/numbered taxiway vice calling out the next taxiway. The latter would have eliminated any misunderstanding.

  • Andrew

    that doesn’t even make any sense!