I was on landing rollout and misheard a tower "turn off at xxx switch ground" call. We read back the incorrect taxi way and turned off there and switched to the ground frequency. After our incorrect read back we were not contacted again until ground told us to call tower. I was under the impression that the landing aircraft had the right of way over any traffic behind them, even on roll out. I was also under the impression that a tower cannot stop you from using the whole runway.

Is missing a directed turn off a runway a flight violation? If so what FAR/AIM or regulation did it violate? Is the fault with us for mishearing or with the controller for not correcting us? Does this count as a runway incursion? Does the controller maintain responsibility for maintaining separation until we taxi clear?

To answer a few of the questions from below: when we contacted the ground controller, they gave us a phone number to contact tower then gave us a taxi clearance. When they told us to call i became concerned with receiving a flight violation. We were not corrected to my knowledge, we only heard radio traffic once we had turned off the runway. This was also not a LAHS operation.

another question: From the AIM 4-3-20 it says : "the following procedures must be followed..." "exit the runway without delay" " is that at the discretion of the pilot?

also if tower gives you a taxiway instruction to leave the runway is that an instruction or a clearance?

Is it a good idea to call the local FAA office and see if they have opened an investigation?

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    $\begingroup$ Whatever happened exactly, it sounds like it's worth filing an ASRS report right away $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Apr 27, 2016 at 11:50
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    $\begingroup$ After switching to ground did you contact them before taxi? "Switch ground" doesn't sound the same as "monitor ground". I agree with @Pondlife, file an ASRS now. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Apr 27, 2016 at 12:17
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    $\begingroup$ I think the use of incorrect phraseology by ATC added to this, as is so common, and, if they have spaced traffic behind so close that you turning off at the wrong exit caused a problem, that's ATCs problem again, not yours. What if you had had to stop on the runway? You're the PIC, the safety of the aircraft is yours. $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    Apr 27, 2016 at 14:23
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    $\begingroup$ About your last edit on calling the FAA or not, I would say definitely not. If they are invesigating they'll contact you, and if they aren't then there is zero benefit (to you) in stirring things up. I would still file the ASRS, though. And see this question $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Apr 28, 2016 at 18:09
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    $\begingroup$ @Andykraven, sorry I see that this is an old one, but I have to ask: You mention you were given a phone number and asked to call tower. Did you call later? What did they say?! They could either chew you out, or apologize for not catching and correcting your readback. I am very curious how that conversation went, and surprised nobody else commented or asked about this... $\endgroup$ Nov 30, 2018 at 1:48

4 Answers 4


I don't think you violated any regulations. It was an ATC instruction, not an ATC clearance.

It was an instruction you were unable to comply with. The instruction was badly timed and was obviously not clear since you did not correctly understand it. In the busy time during the landing roll, you understood something different, and read back what you understood it to be.

The landing roll-out can be a busy time needing the attention of both pilots. ATC issuing an instruction while you are basically still in the landing roll should not be expected to be complied with unless it is happens to be convenient for you to do so.

Many airlines SOP say that you do nothing until you are clear of the runway. Both pilots remain heads up and don't touch anything. The pilot in command alone will decide where it is safe to tun off the runway. If ATC makes a "Request", and it can be safely complied with, then the PIC may decide to deviate from SOP and comply.

If you ran off the side of the runway trying to comply with an ATC "request", who do you think will be held responsible? (I'll give you a hint, it won't be ATC)

This is a prime example of why ATC should not be doing this.

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    $\begingroup$ An excellent example of this in a commercial setting: youtube.com/watch?v=x23fBpxuWGM $\endgroup$
    – Dan
    Apr 27, 2016 at 15:29
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    $\begingroup$ I agree. The biggie is that you read back the instructions and were not corrected. As a former ATC, I can tell you the supervisor would probably yank my headset out of the console and take over if I made that mistake :) $\endgroup$
    – Jeff.Clark
    Apr 28, 2016 at 15:32
  • $\begingroup$ Is there any way to tell if they are investigating me? I haven't received any notic yet. How long does that usually take? $\endgroup$
    – Andykraven
    Apr 28, 2016 at 16:34

Mike has a good answer, but I thought it was worth while mentioning something you say in your question:

...I was also under the impression that a tower cannot stop you from using the whole runway.

While in many cases this is true, there are some that it is not. The main example of this is a Land and Hold Short Operation (LAHSO). If you accept a LAHSO then you are required to comply with the hold short point on the runway and not go beyond that. (The only other one I can think of is when a crossing runway is closed).

So if you had accepted a LAHSO request (and its up to you as the pilot to accept or decline the request), and subsequently used more than the LAHSO permitted you to, this would be a violation.

Also, if you are a light plane and want more than your fair share of runway, its usually "polite" to tell the controller that you want "full length". The controller is trying to space out landing aircraft and may assume that you don't need 8000+ feet of runway in your Cessna 172. Legally unless you accept a LAHSO you are welcome to use all of it, but the controller will be a happier person if you tell them you need more. I do this quite a bit when coming in on a certain runway that has the FBO at the opposite end, its better to land long than spend 10 minutes taxing. The controller may request that you "make it short" for landing aircraft.

  • $\begingroup$ To clarify, you can accept a LAHSO and still abort the landing (which will put you beyond the hold short point), and indeed you have to if you botch the landing in such a way that you'd be unable to stop before the hold short point. $\endgroup$
    – falstro
    Apr 27, 2016 at 20:15
  • $\begingroup$ @falstro Usually a botched landing results in a go-around, not a full stop. If you accept a LAHSO and go beyond the hold short even with a botched landing you are violating a clearance. LAHSO doesn't mean you can't go around. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Apr 27, 2016 at 20:19
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, my point exactly; just saying if you go around, you can go past the hold short. $\endgroup$
    – falstro
    Apr 27, 2016 at 20:23

Exiting a runway is purely at the discretion of the PIC. The tower-recommended exit is just that: a recommendation. This is a safety issue. The pilot exits the runway where they and they alone decide it is safe to do so.

  • $\begingroup$ Eh... if you're still barreling down the runway at 100+ knots and tower says to turn at the taxiway in 300 feet that's obviously not going to happen. If you're at 20 knots halfway down the runway and tower tells you to take the next exit, and you decide you want to keep on trucking to the end? Pilot deviation. (Assuming all surfaces clear of contaminants, etc.) $\endgroup$
    – randomhead
    Feb 10, 2021 at 15:48

The topic is as relevant as it was when it was initially posted. So some notes:

ICAO Annexe 10 extract para PANS.

An aircraft station should acknowledge receipt of important air traffic control messages or parts thereof by reading them back and terminating the readback by its radio call sign.

Note 1.— Air traffic control clearances, instructions and information requiring readback are specified in PANS-ATM (Doc 4444).

Note 2.— The following example illustrates the application of this procedure:

(ATC clearance by network station to an aircraft)





Station (denoting accuracy of readback): MADRID

  • I'd say missing an ATC directed turn off the runway, after a correct and confirmed readback, could be a violation, but clearly, this wasn't the case. So no violation, and no intended violation of procedure, but there certainly was an error as you point out yourself.

  • In the first place, the Tower gives such modifier instructions as a result of the perception of an arising risk. Maybe be an airplane landing behind you, could be an airplane likely to cross your likely exit, or worse, your mandatory RWY exit. It could be an understanding between Controllers and Pilots at a local for convenience rather than purely Safety. You may not be aware of this last, depending on your experience, familiarity with the airfield and local procedures and conventions.
    A few points come up:

  • in case of a readback/switchover situation, logic dictates that you need to give it a reasonable time on frequency, incase your readback has to be corrected, before switching frequencies. We get rushed sometimes due to a clash of procedures ("change to GND point Niner for further") and we are unable or it is impossible to prioritize.

  • Conversely when you change over frequency, good R/T practice requires a small pause before using the ptt to ensure you don't 'step on' someone else's transmission (Who knows, could be a readback or it's acknowledgement).

  • an error, though it may not be a violation, may still need discussion, so as to come up with an understanding of what happened, why it happened and how we can help avoiding or eliminate such occurrences.

  • As Pilot in Command, certain Controller instructions may not be acceptable to you. You may exercise your command authority, for the safety of the airplane, persons affected, and goods and property etc., but remember, you invariably must be able to defend your actions and decisions as being the safest course of action based on the info available to you and the realtime situation.

  • Seems Tower did the needful by contacting you via Ground freq. We pilots tend to (naturally) obsess about such occurrences, and the bogie of violations and consequences come more readily to mind, somewhat repressing a genuine concern for addressing the circumstances.

  • BTW, what did the Tower guys have to say to you in the end?

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    $\begingroup$ Do you have anything to backup up what "you'd say" for bullet point 1? That would help a lot, since you seem to be implying that this is regulatory. $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Oct 29, 2020 at 16:33
  • $\begingroup$ Please see the current edit where I've added an extract (Para from the ICAO Annexe 10 on "Aeronautical Telecommunications" $\endgroup$
    – skipper44
    Oct 29, 2020 at 20:09
  • $\begingroup$ That does help. Unfortunately, an image is not searchable text for others who may be looking to refer to it. If you'll take the tour and read through the help center, you'll start to learn the standards that are expected of answers here. I'm not trying to pick on you, just take what seems to be a good answer and help it meet the expected standards here. I've noted, too, that you've answered several other questions - sharing your knowledege in a way that best helps the community benefits all. $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Oct 30, 2020 at 11:04

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