Airport Surface Operations At
Non-Towered Airports And Airports When The Tower Is Closed
The following information comes
from Advisory Circular 91-73. Part 91 Pilot and Flight Crew Procedures
during Taxi Operations and Part 135 Single-pilot Operations. This
advisory circular provides guidelines for the development and
implementation of standard pilot procedures for conducting safe
aircraft operations on the airport surface. It focuses on the
activities occurring on the flight deck/cockpit (e.g., planning,
communication, coordinating), as opposed to the actual control of the
aircraft (e.g., climbing, descending, maneuvering). Although there are
many similarities, taxi operations for aircraft that require more than
one pilot, present distinct challenges and requirements. This section
is devoted to operations at non-towered airports and airports when the
tower is closed.
The absence of an operating airport
traffic control tower creates a need for increased vigilance on the
part of pilots operating at those airports. There are also specific
communications procedures that differ from those used at towered
airports. As is the case at towered airports, planning, clear
communications, and enhanced situational awareness during airport
surface operations will reduce the potential for surface incidents at
airports without an operating control tower. This section will focus
on those aspects of airport surface operations that are unique to
airports without an operating control tower.
The following should be considered
when operating at an airport without an operating control tower:
Familiarize yourself with the local traffic pattern. Remember, not
all airports use a standard traffic pattern. Don't forget to check
the pattern altitude.
[Caution: During calm or nearly calm
wind conditions, be aware that pilots may have a choice of what runway
to land on or take off from, and that other pilots' choices may
conflict with your own choice. Also, aircraft may be utilizing an
instrument approach procedure to runways other than the runway in use
for VFR operations. The instrument approach runway may intersect the
there is more than one crewmember, brief your taxi plans and be sure
that all crewmembers have a common understanding of the plan.
While maintaining situational
awareness is important in all circumstances, it is particularly
important when operating at an airport without an operating control
tower. To achieve situational awareness, you should be fully aware of
your intended taxi route and be able to follow the planned route
correctly. Without ATC to verbally tell you where and when to stop,
you must rely on visual cues to maintain situational awareness and
maintain your planned taxi route. These visual cues include airport
signs, markings, and lighting, together with the airport diagram.
Other things to consider that can help you maintain situational
awareness while operating at an airport without an operating control
- Monitor the appropriate frequency.
Listen to what the pilots of other aircraft on the frequency are
possible, monitor the approach control frequency to alert you to IFR
traffic inbound to the airport.
Prior to crossing the hold short line or entering or crossing any
runway, scan the full length of the runway, including the approach
areas. Do not engage in any other flight deck/cockpit duties while
crossing a runway. Give your full attention to crossing and clearing
Use exterior lighting to make your aircraft more conspicuous to
Some of the most important guidelines
for radio communications at airports without an operating control
Ensure that your radio is tuned to the appropriate Common Traffic
Advisory Frequency (CTAF) or Unicom frequency. Monitor the CTAF
frequency for a few minutes before beginning taxi to help you 'get
Ensure that the frequency is available by listening before
Transmit your intentions clearly, but be as brief as possible.
Always state the name of the airport at which you are operating at
the beginning and end of your transmission.
Use your full call sign whenever there is another aircraft on the
frequency with a similar call sign.
[Caution: Some aircraft operating at
airports without operating control towers may not be equipped with a
radio You must remain alert for them.]
Except for not having communications
with ATC, taxi operations are the same as at towered airports.
For more information about operations
at non-towered airports, refer to the current versions of AC 90-42,
Traffic Advisory Practices at Airports Without Operating Control
Towers, and AC 90-66. Recommended Standard Traffic Patterns and
Practices for Aeronautical Operations at Airports without Operating
Control Towers. Also, follow Runway Incursion Prevention Best
Practices presented in Appendix 1 of A 91-73C. To obtain the advisory
circular in its entirety it and other advisory circulars can be found