Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The USA No Longer Holding Short of Canada

A few readers have written to alert me to a change in FAA regulations effective June 30th. The new rule requires controllers to issue, and pilots to receive, explicit clearances to cross any runway, including an inactive or closed one. Controllers are no longer allowed to simply say "taxi to" the active runway and must give a routing and explicit instructions to cross or hold short of each runway encountered en route. They can still assign an airplane to follow another, instead of giving explicit routing, but must issue crossing and/or hold short instructions to the following aircraft if the route crosses any runways. The "follow the 737" type of instruction is very useful for pilots who are unfamiliar with an airport that has confusing taxiway instructions. The controller can just have us follow someone that they know knows the way, such as a scheduled airline flight.

This rule change makes me happy, because the rule has existed in Canada since before I learned to fly, and was deeply ingrained in my psyche before my first solo. Every time an American controller blithely says to me, "Taxi to runway seven," I frown and consult my runway diagram, thinking "how does she want me to get there?" I choose a route using the taxiway diagram, but my instinct is still to stop at all hold short lines. To tell the truth, even when I am in the States and know that the rule allows me to proceed across the double lines ahead of me, most of the time I still call ground and "confirm cleared across two seven?" The ground controller might sound irritated, but not as irritated as she would sound if I committed a runway incursion.

I believe some US airports have had this in place as a house rule or a local regulation for some time, because I have had explicit US runway crossing clearances in the past. In fact on June 20th I landed at a US airport and my taxi clearance to parking included an explicit runway crossing. The next day when I was taxiing out it didn't, so I confirmed and then followed up with "I guess you guys don't need to issue that clearance until next week, eh?" The previous day's controller was possibly practicing for the change.

What safety procedures already present in the US should Canada adopt? Off the top of my head, I'd like to suggest that Nav Canada print airport identifiers on WACs and VNCs (charts).

18 comments:

Toriafly said...

It all becomes official tomorrow, but my airport started practicing for it today. I think it provides more clear instructions and will prevent any confusion and hopefully any possible runway/taxiway incursions. You have to just ramble off a few more instructions, but all in all, I didn't find the change that cumbersome.

ATC Happenings said...

Good suggestion about the airport identifiers.

I've always believed in that golden rule of NEVER crossing ANY runway unless cleared to do so. Sometimes a pilot will confirm with me even after being cleared and I always thank them for asking.

One thing we've (Canada) adopted from the US is giving multiple landing clearances. I didn't believe in it at first, but now I quite like it when used properly.

david said...

For eight years, I've been annoying US controllers by insisting on verifying every runway crossing.

Aluwings said...

MF frequencies on the VFR nav. charts.

And I'm with "ATC Happenings" - multiple landing clearances worked so well in the US I couldn't understand why in Canada we had to wait until short final and of course that would be the moment that someone would block the frequency with a long request.

Which always raised the question: Would you land or go around if the blabbering didn't stop soon enough to get the official landing clearance? My personal choice would have been to land providing I had a complete visual reference to the runway assuring me the pavement was clear. Especially when the option would be pulling back up into an extremely busy terminal area, or bad weather. But not everyone agreed with me... anyway - now it's a moot point.

Anonymous said...

You know what I've typed three responses to this. I need to have a whiskey and H2o, calm down about the "changes" and type something in a day or so. The biggest thing I see is it WILL slow traffic down at the hubs with complex runway configurations. If this is what we are going for, I guess I'm just a bit too "old school", where you take responsibility for your actions as a controller or a pilot. I'll write more later.

Tryin' to move the metal is how I'll sign this.

Anonymous said...

Kinda surprised this wasn't in place in the US for the last 30 years or so.
It was adapted in Europe decades ago, I think after the Teneriffe crash where a taxiing aircraft was on an active runway without the tower knowing it (though they were on the runway after ignoring instructions to clear it, having deliberately missed the assigned turnoff point because the PIC had decided the turn was too tight and not to inform the tower of that).

With 2 aircraft performing what's effectively a runway incursion at the same time, accidents happen (yes, both aircraft on Teneriffe were on the runway illegally, both thought they were the only one there and both thought they had authority to be there).

Would Teneriffe had happened had the current rules been in place?
I don't know, maybe not (KLM should have requested confirmation of their clearance as it wasn't explicit enough under rules as they exist now, but not as they existed then at their home base, PanAm should have notified ATC of missing their turnoff but they should have done that anyway).

Traffic won't slow down, at least not after people get used to the rule.
Aircraft stop (or should) before crossing a runway anyway to check for traffic. Those few seconds are enough to get a crossing clearance.
It works in Europe, has worked here for decades.
Explicit taxi instructions reduce confusion on large facilities, people don't end up (or less frequently) going the wrong way and have to be directed back on track, possibly clogging traffic as they have to cross the flow.

D.B. said...

I must say that I really like the new rule. But in my experience in the USA, it won't change much except perhaps on the "crossing runway" part.

I have been trying to think of the last time I got a taxi clearance that didn't include an explicit route. Usually at KTKI, I hear "NxxxxC taxi via Alpha to runway 17/35". On landing I often hear "xxC exit at C/D and taxi to parking", but they know I'm based there. Perhaps that will change.

At big air-carrier airports (e.g. Nashville and Memphis) I have received more complex, but still specific, taxi clearance, such as "taxi to runway 2C via Kilo, Uncle, Tango 4, Sierra 2 and Sierra". So I'm not sure it will make much difference, although "line up and hold" is going to seem strange :)

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 0553 - I think you will find it was not quite like your scenario . There were other factors not least FOG - and alternative airport closures due to terrorist activity .Both aircraft were in fact authorized on the runway although the PanAm had certainly overshot exit three in the fog - albeit not deliberately .

Had CRSM then been in place this accident would most probably not have occurred .

Anonymous said...

Alright the whiskey and H20 didn't help. Lets take a look at traffic volume of U.S. airports vs the rest of the world. In the top ten airports, in 2009, two were not in the U.S. according to the web site wikipedia. I would honestly LOVE to see valid research about "runway incursion","pilot deviations", and "operational deviations" (inside code for controller error) and see where the problem is. Is it safer? OH HELL YES! But so is staying at home and locking the door. The "second or two" to check if it's clear adds up here in the U.S., if your at a "hub" airport and busting hump as a controller that is a pain in the AZZ to have to "coach" and "hold" each professional pilot's hand as they taxi to the runway. If you want me to I will, but my goodness help me out I'm counting on YOU!

Just call me the "baby sitter"

Aviatrix said...

Anonymous (the one with the whiskey): thanks for speaking up. I wasn't expecting negative responses to this change, so I'm glad you're represented. If there were standard published taxiway routes, like STARs for the pavement, such that ATC could assign you to "Taxi CARBON 1 to six right, cleared across six left" instead of stringing off the chain of taxiways, do you think that would alleviate frequency congestion? Feel free to rant here about the effect of the change on you.

D.B.: they can still tell you "taxi to parking" or "taxi to gate" as long as there are no runways to cross.

I suspect there will always be confusing localisms, as in the other day when I was assigned a taxi route via a named taxiway that was not published on the current FAA airport diagram.

Aluwings Is the multiple landing clearances thing Canada-wide now? I knew it was introduced as a pilot (ha ha) programme at a few places, but I didn't know it was now normal. I still find it disconcerting to hear a heavy cleared to land while I'm still trundling towards the exit taxiway, but I see the advantage, too.

Aviatrix said...

I know Anonymous Whiskey Drinker knows this, but just to make it clear to others, the new rule doesn't actually require pilots to come to a halt and ask "mother may I?" at each runway crossing. The controller is supposed to give the pilot explicit permission to cross (or hold short of) each runway on the taxi route as part of the initial clearance. The new rule will actually expedite my taxiing in the US, because now I'll cross runways more confidently. But the ratio of people who know what they're doing to people who might now ask to confirm is likely high enough at most airports that the new clearances will increase ground frequency traffic.

A Squared said...

Anonymous wrote: having deliberately missed the assigned turnoff point

Absolutely ain't true. Period. Here's the Transcript.

Regardeless, even if they *had* passed the turnoff intentionally, the controller was *very* aware that Pan Am was still on the runway.

The accident happened because the KLM captain took off without having been cleared to take off, and ignored his crew who was trying to tell him that the Pan Am plane was not clear of the runway.

Anonymous said...

"The accident happened because the KLM captain took off without having been cleared to take off,"

He had what he had been trained to consider clearance to take off, which is the point here.
He had asked "are we cleared", to which the tower responded "you are cleared".
At Schiphol at the time, clearance to enter a runway meant clearance to take off!
He was unused to Spanish practice, which was different. He (as PanAm) was unfamiliar with the airport.
PanAm failed to notify ATC of deliberately missing their turnoff.

It was a major CF, everyone made mistakes, no one person is to blame (except possibly the ETA terrorists that caused 2 747s to converge at a fogged in airport they were unfamiliar with and where the controllers were unaccustomed to handling foreign traffic, let alone widebody airliners).

Cptn. van Zanten has for decades been unjustly portrayed as a suicidal maniac who deliberately put the lifes of hundreds at risk in order to get home 5 minutes early.
He was not. He acted on the best information he had, using his experience. So did everyone else (except maybe the controllers who were listening to a football match on the radio while trying to direct traffic in a to them unfamiliar language).

PanAm had good reasons to not take that turnoff, but didn't communicate them.
KLM had good reasons to take off, having been granted what they had been taught was permission to do so and being near their block time.
ATC gave both instructions they thought were appropriate, but which both aircraft misinterpreted based on their experience.
Adding the confusion caused by heterodyne which blurred some of the conversation at critical times, the situation was an accident waiting to happen.

That's what you get when runway occupancy rules aren't crystal clear and strictly enforced.
Europe learned that lesson that day, at the cost of hundreds of lives.
The US have been lucky that it's not happened there (at this scale), and hopefully now it never will.

A Squared said...

He had asked "are we cleared", to which the tower responded "you are cleared".

Nope, that didn't happen either.

In all seriousness, a great deal of your lack of understanding of this would be cleared up by simply reading the transcripts.

Pan Am did *not* intentionally pass their intersection.

ATC did *not* believe that Pan Am had cleared the runway.

ATC did *Not* clear KLM for takeoff.

ATC did *not* say "yes you are cleared"

At Schiphol at the time, clearance to enter a runway meant clearance to take off!


I'm rather skeptical that is true, perhaps you could provide a source which supports that. Even if it *were* true, there was no question that there was another aircraft on the runway at the same time. the only confusion (and it was *only* in the KLM cockpit) was whether or not that plane had cleared the runway or not. So, if they are having planes back taxi on the same runway, at the same time as you are on the runway, it's pretty clear that being cleared to enter the runway is not the same as being cleared for takeoff at that location.

A Squared said...

(except maybe the controllers who were listening to a football match on the radio while trying to direct traffic in a to them unfamiliar language).

Oh yeah, the old "The tower controller was at fault because there was a football game on in the background" theory.

THis one is great bedause it is such a transparently irrational attempt to place blame other then where it belongs.

Ok, lets think this through and apply a little critical thought.

Ready? OK here we go:

A radio playing in the background *might* be a legitimate contributing factor, *IF* the tower controller had lost situational awareness, and had issued a takeoff clearance.

But, and it's a big "but", that is *not* what happened. The tower controller *never* lost situational awareness, he was continuously and unambiguously aware that Pan AM was on the runway, and he did *not* issue a takeoff clearance.

Despite the radio playing in the background, the controller had full awareness of the situation and issued no erroneous clearances.

The idea that the football game was a contribution factor does not pass the logic test.

Are you perhaps Dutch? Because what you posting sounds much like the embarrassing Dutch "investigation" which sought to place blame on everyone else but Van Zanten.

Splendor said...

Most major airports in the far east publish "standard taxi routes" which can sometimes be rather complex. They are definitely useful in a region where some of the taxiway marking is a bit cryptic and the level of English of some of the crews leaves a lot to be desired.
Instead of getting told to taxi to 32L via S5, H3, B, B11, A10 (or something similar) the instruction will just be "taxi holding point 32L standard route"

Conditional landing clearances also happen but I like the wording a bit better: "behind the (landing/departing) (type), runway XX cleared to land" - it's a bit long but there is no ambiguity as to what the clearance and what's going on ahead of you.

S.

Aviatrix said...

Splendor The fast taxi routes were exactly what I meant.

Anonymous said...

Aviatrix is more than correct in saying the rules that apply to pilots haven't changed. The FARs (Federal Air Regulations) still allow a pilot to cross ANY runway, with the exception of the assigned runway, en route to that runway. So you may ask, what if I just arrived at KCPS on 30L and I turn off and ground says "taxi to the FBO", that would mean you are authorized to cross 4/22 and 30R/12L on the way to the FBO. Now I ask, how many people will that confuse when pilots who KNOW the FARs hear controllers at airports start saying cross runway XX (even when it is NOTAMed closed! I can't figure that out so I'm lookin' for some help from the great white north)? It will slow down those pilots, with all due respect to the Visitors to our Country, who greatly out number the visitors. I don't know ONE controller that thinks this is a good thing.

Drinkin' Canadian Whiskey tonight, HAPPY FREAKIN' CANADA DAY! Oh, by the way, I love to visit your country, it's BEAUTIFUL!