Changes to Aircraft Taxi Clearances

Chicago's Midway (MDW) airport layout sets up a lot of runway crossings.

Did you notice the ground controller at controlled airports no longer says “Taxi to” the runway? Ground still begins a taxi clearance by stating the runway in use. Immediately after, the controller gives the taxi route and any hold short instructions. Examples:

Old way: “Taxi to Runway 32 via Bravo, Kilo, Charlie.”

New way: “Runway 32, taxi via Bravo, Kilo, Charlie.”

What Was Broken?

Why the change? In the past, a “taxi to Runway XX” implied an automatic clearance to cross all other runways between the start of your taxi and the active runway. According to the new directive, a ground controller must provide a specific clearance to cross any runway, removing any implied or automatic clearance to cross.

C.Y.A. Don’t Cross Without Clearance

If there are runways to cross between your present position and your ultimate destination on the airport, you should hear the ground controller tell you to either “hold short of” or “cross” the runway in question. If you do not hear either type of clearance, hold short of the runway until you get a clearance to cross.

The change in procedure is intended to reduce the number of unauthorized runway crossings, decreasing the chance of a collision between a taxiing aircraft and one that is either taking off or landing.

The Order

Here are excerpts from the FAA Order N JO 7110.532:

This notice amends Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Order JO 7110.65, Air Traffic Control, Paragraph 3-7-2, Taxi and Ground Movement Operations, by deleting the phraseology and procedure of issuing “taxi to” when authorizing an aircraft to taxi to an assigned takeoff runway, thus allowing an aircraft to cross all runways/taxiways which the taxi route intersects except the assigned runway. This notice replaces N JO 7110.528, Taxi and Ground Movement Operations, effective June 30, 2010.

This change establishes the requirement that an explicit runway crossing clearance be issued for each runway (active/inactive or closed) crossing and requires an aircraft/vehicle to have crossed the previous runway before another runway crossing clearance may be issued. . .


. . . When a taxi clearance to a runway is issued to an aircraft, confirm the aircraft has the correct runway assignment.

1.    A pilot’s read back of taxi instructions with the runway assignment can be considered confirmation of runway assignment. . .

b.    When authorizing an aircraft to taxi to an assigned takeoff runway, state the departure runway followed by the specific taxi route. Issue hold short restrictions when an aircraft will be required to hold short of a runway or other points along the taxi route.
c.    Aircraft/vehicles must receive a clearance for each runway their route crosses. An aircraft/vehicle must have crossed a previous runway before another runway crossing clearance may be issued.

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