I'm a student pilot studying right-of-way and confused about the landing provisions. Right-of-way is determined first by aircraft category, and then by position. That makes sense.

But the last provision, on final, says the lower aircraft has the right away. Does that mean that the lower aircraft regardless of the category has the right-of-way, or does the lower aircraft only have the right-of-way when they are in the same category?

For instance, if a glider was on final but high, and a Cessna 172 was on final but lower/closer, who would have the right-of-way?


1 Answer 1


The C172 has right of way, it's lower. The rules are in 14 CFR 91.113 and the only place where categories are mentioned is in 91.113(d), which is specifically about converging traffic at "approximately the same altitude". For landing traffic, the lower aircraft has the right of way.

People spend lots of time and energy discussing who has right of way on final, what "on final approach" really means, if it's OK to cut off a faster (or slower) aircraft, if an aircraft on a 5-mile final prevents other aircraft in the pattern from landing etc. But the discussion often becomes a bit academic: practically speaking the point is to be safe, not create any problems, and not cause other aircraft to go around or maneuver to avoid you. Think of it like pulling out of a side street in your car: if another car is coming then you shouldn't cause him to brake hard or swerve to avoid you.

  • $\begingroup$ Also if there is enough usage of a airport to get many comfits, there will be a control tower. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 21:13

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