The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) made Runway Incursion Avoidance a special emphasis area and added it as a required task in several of the Practical Test Standards (PTS) documents. All the PTS documents have a bullet item that reads something like this:

Distinct challenges and requirements during taxi operations not found in other phases of flight operations.

I have reviewed the applicable sections of the Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge and AC 91-73B, but I haven't found a concrete answer on what exactly these challenges are. If an examiner asked me to explain these challenges I'd do my best, and I'm sure I could come up with some good arguments for my thoughts, but I like to know what the FAA is looking for when they ask a question and this one doesn't seem to have an exact reference.

  • $\begingroup$ Look at the airport diagrams section in the AIM. Know what is a taxiway direction sign. What way you have to go to get on taxi ways and runways. What are hot spots and danger areas etc. read the chart supplement for Chicago ohare to get a view of some things. Use it as an example if needed. But don't dig yourself a hole for the check ride. $\endgroup$ Apr 28, 2016 at 15:36
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe this would be more appropriate as a wiki because it is so comprehensive. $\endgroup$ Apr 28, 2016 at 16:10
  • $\begingroup$ Look at AC 120-74 (Procedures during taxi operations) which states "Taxi operations present distinct challenges and requirements not found in other phases of flight operations." If this is not that they have in mind... $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Apr 28, 2016 at 20:06
  • $\begingroup$ Taxiing hazard #346:'t those pesky regional jets $\endgroup$
    – TomMcW
    Apr 28, 2016 at 20:53
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Well, it's rare for a troop of monkeys to run in front of the aircraft at 30,000 ft, that's far more common when taxiing... admittedly dependant on your geography $\endgroup$
    – Jon Story
    Apr 29, 2016 at 3:18

3 Answers 3


Well in air you don't have to worry about kangaroos in your path or a wheel falling off unnoticed, or people beside a taxiway mistakenly indicating you won't hit a golf cart. Heaven forbid you accidentally retract the landing gear.

Jokes aisde, taxiing can be a major challenge even for experienced pilots. First off, your traditional warning systems don't work. You can't check your route using a low or mid-range GPS because they don't have airport taxiway information. You won't get a "terrain!" warning when you're about to head off the end of a taxiway.

Steering is difficult because the control surfaces are used differently on the ground, especially in a crosswind. You don't use your ailerons or elevator to control your path; you use them to keep the wings from lifting and to keep you on the ground. You use the rudder and steerable nose wheel/tail-wheel (if present) to keep you on the right path, with help from the brakes only when necessary. Those brakes definitely will be necessary in a tail-wheel aircraft with a strong enough crosswind. If you fail to control the ground path in a tail-wheel aircraft, an unstable and difficult ground loop can develop.

Did wbeard52 mention low visibility? You can technically land a plane in zero visibility if your plane and the airport are properly equipped, but good luck naviagting the taxiways afterwards. A pilot once remarked that "Taxiing at ORD the first time in low visibility conditions is impossible," and another remarked that he was so confused by low visibility he had to have a follow-me truck guide him. [source]

Taxiing can also be confusing in good weather, especially at night. Sometimes the taxiway letters jump randomly around the alphabet, sometimes markings are obstructed, sometimes there's construction (you don't see construction much in the air!). The FAA has an entire handbook appendix devoted to avoiding runway incursions that explains these navigational issues.

You also have to be vigilant for obstacles around you (like those kangaroos I mentioned earlier). In a tail-wheel aircraft with a high nose, for example, it's recommended to zig-zag a little so you can see what's right in front of you. In aircraft like the B777-300 they actually have camera systems to augment visibility. (see this question and the FAA's Airplane Flying Handbook ).

You can also look up a list of recent taxiing incidents here


There are quite a few challenges:

  1. Low visibility taxi
  2. Did I mention complex taxi routes in low visibility
  3. Hot spots (which are designed to alert pilots to possible taxi operational challenges
  4. Runway incursion
  5. Winds and the possibility of the upwind wing rising unless compensated for.
  6. Taxiing with your feet and staying on the yellow line
  7. Jet blast
  8. Taxiing on a snow covered or icy taxiway


  1. Your airplane is on ground, so the physics of ground play role. Slipping, skidding, stopping, decelerating, pushback etc.
  2. Visual outlook responsibility is both the pilot's and the tower's and any other traffic's.
  3. A fuel truck or passenger bus or a follow me car can hit you any time.
  4. Navigating on the airport can be stressful for a first comer pilot, especially if it's a crowded airport.

Whereas in air, most of the events are foreseen, and the autopilot handles most of the detailed tasks and creates the situational awareness to give time for the pilot to think carefully.


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