In voretaq7's answer to the question Is there a name for the area for aircraft to back track near the runway threshold?, it is mentioned that runway turnaround areas are considered part of the runway to which they are attached and that any aircraft in the turnaround zone are considered to occupy the runway.

I noticed that in the picture provided in his answer showing a runway turnaround area, the runway edge stripes actually included the runway turnaround area:

Runway with turnaround area

However, I've also noted that at the small, uncontrolled GA airport I've most often flown from, the runway edge stripes do not include the turnaround area:

Arrival end of 8A3

Of course, in either case, a departing aircraft must cross the runway hold line and enter the runway to back-taxi to the turnaround area in the first place. However, I'm curious under what, if any, circumstances is it legal under the U.S. FARs for an aircraft to land or take off on a runway while another aircraft occupies the turn-around zone on that runway? And, of course, I'm talking about normal operations here, not emergencies.

  • Does the runway edge stripe configuration matter, for example?
  • How does this differ between controlled and uncontrolled fields?

For the sake of simplicity, let's assume that both aircraft in question are light GA aircraft, not aircraft whose wings might stick off the sides of the runway, and that all parts of the aircraft in the turnaround zone are on the turnaround side of where the runway edge line would be were it a straight line (like it is in the second picture.)

I have seen both landings and takeoffs with another aircraft in the turnaround area at the bottom field pictured above, including a couple of aircraft back-taxiing out there (under mutual agreement and while in radio communication with each other) and the second of them wait in the turnaround while the first takes off.


3 Answers 3


Jim's answer is accurate. Unless there is a proper boundary between the turnaround and the runway, an aircraft should not be there while other aircraft are landing or taking off.

In the FAA's AC about airport design:

Obstacle Free Zone (OFZ). The OFZ is the three-dimensional airspace along the runway and extended runway centerline that is required to be clear of obstacles for protection for aircraft landing or taking off from the runway and for missed approaches.

The dimensions of the zone are different depending on the aircraft size and approach minimums. Specifically the runway OFZ has widths from 120 to 400 feet. This is the zone typically protected by the hold lines (pictured in Jim's answer), which are typically placed to provide adequate separation for the worst anticipated case at that airport.

Regarding the edge markings, they should be parallel to each other and not follow the edge of a turnaround pad. From the AC on airport markings:

When a taxiway connects to a runway or the runway has turn pads or turnarounds, the runway edge marking remains continuous between the runway and these adjoining infrastructures.

If the turnaround pad is designed to be occupied while the runway is in use, this is referred to as a holding bay. A proper holding bay would look like this:

Holding bay illustration

This illustration comes from the airport design AC. Notice that the FAA considers this poor, because it provides no guidance such as taxiway center lines for pilots to follow.


For non-towered airports, there is no such regulation. The only actual regulation that might prevent two aircraft from occupying a given runway at the same time is FAR 91.13, which prohibits the operation of aircraft

in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.

Want to line up and wait while someone else is rolling out? Touch down before the previous arrival has cleared the runway? They're not specifically prohibited - but neither is a good idea.

Depending on the size of the turnaround area, I would generally consider a landing while it's occupied unsafe - perhaps even reckless. However, a takeoff with the turnaround occupied might be comparable to a Line Up and Wait situation. The closest FAA guidance I can find comes from the Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge, in Appendix 1 - Runway Incursion Avoidance (p. 1-10):

NOTE: Line up and wait/holding in position is not recommended at nontowered airports.

That's good common sense. But "not recommended", in a document which is not legally binding, is far from an actual prohibition.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Why is it a bad idea to line up and wait while someone else is rolling out? $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 23:38
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @pericynthion I had the same thought initially. But when you're lined up and waiting, you can't see behind you - another aircraft might be on final when you decide to start your takeoff roll. If you wait until the prior arrival clears, you can visually check final before taking the runway. At a towered airport this is less bad because the local controller should know who's out there. $\endgroup$
    – TypeIA
    Commented Mar 8, 2018 at 20:32

The runway edge stripe does not define the runway boundary. The runway boundary line defines the runway boundary.

Runway Boundary Line:

enter image description here


For all airports right of way rules are covered in

14 CFR 91.113

(b) General.

When weather conditions permit, regardless of whether an operation is conducted under instrument flight rules or visual flight rules, vigilance shall be maintained by each person operating an aircraft so as to see and avoid other aircraft. When a rule of this section gives another aircraft the right-of-way, the pilot shall give way to that aircraft and may not pass over, under, or ahead of it unless well clear.

(g) Landing.

Aircraft, while on final approach to land or while landing, have the right-of-way over other aircraft in flight or operating on the surface, except that they shall not take advantage of this rule to force an aircraft off the runway surface which has already landed and is attempting to make way for an aircraft on final approach. When two or more aircraft are approaching an airport for the purpose of landing, the aircraft at the lower altitude has the right-of-way, but it shall not take advantage of this rule to cut in front of another which is on final approach to land or to overtake that aircraft.

For controlled airports with clearance from the tower multiple aircraft may back-taxi (usually two at a time) for departure. The first aircraft will line up. The second aircraft will wait in the turnaround area for the first aircraft to takeoff.

There is no rule explicitly prohibiting multiple aircraft occupying the same runway. However the above regulation does provide guidance in answering this question.

Here are some uncontrolled airport scenarios...

Scenario 1: Aircraft A is in the turn around area (not in a holding bay) preparing to takeoff. Aircraft B is on final to land. Aircraft B has the right of way. Aircraft A is in violation.

Scenario 2: Aircrafts A and B will depart on a group flight together (they have coordinated with each other prior to operating). They both taxi to the end of the runway and line up for departure. Both aircraft could take off in sequence with each other, or one aircraft could wait in the turnaround area while the other takes off.

Scenario 3: Aircraft A is in a holding bay (explained in fooot's answer). Aircraft B is on final to land. Aircraft B has the right of way. Aircraft A is outside the runway boundary and not in violation.

Scenario 4: Aircraft A is in a turnaround area. Aircraft B is on take off roll. Aircraft B has the right of way. Aircraft A must give way to Aircraft B until there is sufficient room to safely pass or Aircraft B is well clear.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ What are we looking at in that picture. Please pretend for a minute that I'm an enthusiast only, and not a licensed pilot. :) $\endgroup$
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Aug 17, 2015 at 19:50
  • $\begingroup$ Do you know of any FAR (or similar) that would back up the assertion that only one aircraft is allowed on the runway at once? $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Commented Aug 18, 2015 at 3:11
  • $\begingroup$ @reirab, thanks for your comment. I was incorrect and have amended my answer. $\endgroup$
    – ABC123
    Commented Aug 18, 2015 at 17:01
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for updating the answer. I'm not sure I completely agree regarding scenario 1, though. Aircraft A certainly is not passing over, under, or ahead of aircraft B in that case. Also, for fields where there's a lot of runway between the turn-off point at the turn-around, aircraft A could have been (and likely was) occupying the runway long before aircraft B was on final... sometimes before aircraft B was in the pattern at all... with no chance of making it back clear of the runway in time for aircraft B to land. $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Commented Aug 18, 2015 at 17:45

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