In the US, helicopters are cleared to take-off or land on various parts of airport surfaces such as taxiways, grassy areas, ramps, etc. When this occurs the controller tells the helicopter that the take-off is at their own risk. Also, sometimes when runways are closed certain airplanes are sometimes permitted to take off from taxiways as was the case at a local uncontrolled airport recently.

My question is can a pilot of an airplane request from the tower, and can a tower controller give a clearance to the airplane pilot to take off from a taxiway "at their own risk?" I'm not asking if the controller is required to give the clearance, only if its possible for them to give that clearance if they were so inclined, in the same way they let helicopters take off and land from just about any part of the airport surface. I'm also not talking about emergency situations where an airplane can land anywhere with or without a clearance.


1 Answer 1


No. FAA Order 7110.65AA provides for such takeoff clearances for helicopters in 3-11-2. Note that "at your own risk" departures are not actually clearances- they are in lieu of clearances:

If takeoff is requested from non−movement areas, an area not authorized for helicopter use, or an area off the airport, and, in your judgment, the operation appears to be reasonable, use the following phraseology instead of the takeoff clearance in subparagraph a:

DEPARTURE FROM (requested location) WILL BE AT YOUR OWN RISK (additional instructions, as necessary). USE CAUTION (if applicable).

You only get "cleared for takeoff" if taking off from movement areas that are authorized for helicopter operations. Note that this may include taxiways, in which case you will hear "Taxiway A, cleared for takeoff" and not "at your own risk." Otherwise you get "at your own risk."

There is no such paragraph for airplanes. The closest is 3-3-2, regarding operations on a closed or unsafe runway. Any aircraft can be given "at your own risk" for landing on a closed or unsafe runway. There is no procedure for airplanes to be allowed to land anywhere besides a runway except for emergency situations.

Taxiways can be temporarily designated as runways, but that's a different situation. If it's being treated as a runway you'll hear "cleared for takeoff" as usual.

  • $\begingroup$ I agree that its not a true clearance. But for lack of a better term, lets called it a "clearance" at your own risk, because they are looking at other traffic in the area before they "clear" helicopters to take off from the ramp at their own risk. Our department was allowed to takeoff from taxiway during a period where the runway was closed. It wasn't an emergency, but it was interesting, and got me thinking about it. I'm going to call and ask the guys at my tower and report back. $\endgroup$
    – Devil07
    Commented Feb 5 at 21:09
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @Devil07 Don't call it a clearance because it's not a clearance. If you heard "cleared for takeoff" on a taxiway then it's possible the taxiway was temporarily designated as a runway. $\endgroup$
    – Chris
    Commented Feb 5 at 23:18

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