I have never had a runway number verification on my checklists because normally the landing checklist is completed and stowed by the time I am on short final and can clearly see the numbers.

However, after seeing that Harrison Ford just landed on a taxiway and I know commercial jets have done the same thing from time to time, I am considering a checklist item. One issue is not just the taxiways, a lot of larger airports and big airfields like Oshkosh have multiple parallel runways with right/left designations so it can get pretty confusing. The whole problem is that normally when I am on final and swooping in everything is happening fast and I do not have available bandwidth to be looking at a checklist, I have to be laser focused on making the landing and watching for traffic.

Any suggestions how to verify the runway in a systematic way given the constraints?

  • $\begingroup$ Oshkosh doesn't have any parallel runways or left/right designations. Oshkosh is a 20 minute flight from my home base. It's typically uncontrolled and has a pretty simple layout. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Commented Feb 15, 2017 at 2:49
  • $\begingroup$ @RonBeyer It's obviously not normal, but Oshkosh is configured for parallel runway ops during EAA AirVenture. You can see it in the 2016 NOTAM, for example. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Commented Feb 15, 2017 at 2:56
  • $\begingroup$ @Pondlife Yeah, they are controlled (by volunteers) and open a taxiway as a runway during AirVenture. They also assign colored dots for touchdown so they can sequence landings closer. That week in July/August is pretty out-of-the-ordinary for a special event. It is the one week a year I refuse to fly, especially after talking about horror stories with my CFI. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Commented Feb 15, 2017 at 3:02

3 Answers 3


There are a few common (?) techniques you could use, although how you work them into your actual checklists is up to you. Here are some that I've been taught, there are probably more:

Tune the localizer and/or load an approach

Pros: reliable and accurate (if you set the avionics up right) because it gives you guidance for a specific runway
Cons: can lead to fixation on instruments when you should be looking outside; not every runway has an approach; your aircraft may not have the necessary avionics; may be awkward or distracting to set up and verify

Set the heading bug to runway heading

Pros: many pilots do this for takeoff, so it's a familiar check; works for any runway; convenient if you go around and are told to "fly runway heading"
Cons: doesn't uniquely identify a parallel runway

Write the runway number on your kneeboard

Pros: simple; easy to glance down at quickly
Cons: none that I can think of, unless you don't have a kneeboard

Or use all three techniques together, of course.

ATC could still change your landing clearance, or something else could force a change of plan, but stuff happens and you just have to deal with it. Personally I like the localizer/approach method at night and/or at an unfamiliar airport, otherwise I'll just write down the runway number on my kneeboard.

  • $\begingroup$ And, as that is specifically the question, 2 also does not prevent you from landing on a taxiway (parallel to the intended runway). $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Commented Feb 15, 2017 at 12:58

The FAA issued a NOTAM https://notams.aim.faa.gov/lta/main/viewlta?lookupid=1396671390068774785 in December of 2016 that deals with this issue.

DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION Federal Aviation Administration

OSG Western Service Area

Issued: 12/08/2016 1428 (UTC) Effective: 12/09/2016 1200 (UTC) OSG Western Service Area Letter to Airmen: LTA-OSGW-15 Subject: Wrong Surface Landings and Departures

Cancellation: 12/09/2018 1200 (UTC) Events in which an aircraft lands or departs on the wrong runway, a taxiway or lands at the wrong airport tend to be among the highest-profile and most dangerous events in aviation. These events have been occurring at an average rate of about 24 per year, increasing to over 60 in 2016.

Notable examples include:

• Seattle-Tacoma International (SEA), where a B737 landed on a parallel taxiway between two parallel runways.

• Boise Air Terminal/Gowen Field (BOI), where an A319 correctly read back the runway landing clearance but landed on the parallel runway.

• McCarran International (LAS), where an A320 was cleared to land runway 19R but landed on runway 19L.

Causal Factors:

The common denominator for most wrong surface landings/departures was the lack of situational awareness, with closely-spaced parallel runways, off set parallel runways, or taxiways which run parallel with runway. Wintertime flying conditions, including:

• Sun lower on the horizon.

• Snow/water/ice on airport surfaces combined with lower visibility due to storms/fog.

• Closely-spaced parallel runways,

• Parallel runways with offset thresholds and a parallel taxiway abeam runway.

• Not comprehending/following the control instructions of Air Traffic Control (ATC).

• Controller workload or radar limitations which preclude timely intervention by ATC.

What can pilots do:

• Familiarize yourself with the airport to the maximum extent possible by reviewing pictures, maps and diagrams of the airport design.

• Look for offset runway thresholds, parallel runways (especially if closely-spaced), etc.

• Be familiar with the primary arrival runway.

• Be cognizant of adjacent or nearby airports, particularly ones with similar runways.

• Make sure all ATC instructions and clearances are clearly heard and understood. Make sure you give a proper read-back, if unsure, ask ATC to repeat the instructions or clearance again and don’t hesitate to ask questions about anything you feel requires clarification.

• Confirm that you have correctly identified the destination airport before reporting the airport/runway in sight, especially at night or when weather or environmental conditions might make precise identification more difficult.

Finally: Below are some depictions of what you may encounter during your flight. Remember to LOOK, LISTEN, and FOCUS -- the actions YOU take not only affect your safety, but also the safety of OTHERS.

[This image from the NOTAM looks a lot like the runway at John Wayne]

enter image description here


I don’t use checklists when taking off and landing, but I do use acronyms.

On takeoff, I use HAAPPY

Heading - matches runway 
Ailerons - set for wind 
Airspeed - alive, looking for rotation speed 
Power - RPM or Manifold Pressure where it belongs 
Pitch - Pitch up for rotation
Y - Aim for an airspeed slightly more than VY

On landing I use several versions of B-RAAGS

Entering Downwind

Boost Pump On if low wing
Report - announce entering downwind or if tower when they say to
Airspeed - 100 kts
Altitude - Pattern
Gear - Not yet
Scan - Look for traffic


Runway - matches what I think it should
Airspeed - slowing
Altitude - Pattern
Gear - Down
Scan - Look for traffic

Turning Base

Report - if at uncontrolled field 
Airspeed - slowing
Altitude - Descending 500 fpm
Gear - Check if they are Down
Scan - Look for traffic

Turning Final

Report - if at uncontrolled field 
Airspeed - target for aircraft, usually 80 or 90 kts
Altitude - Adjust based on lights of VASI or sight picture
Gear - Check if they are Down
Scan - Look for traffic

Short Final

Runway - last chance to make sure you are landing on the correct runway 
Airspeed - target for aircraft, usually 70 or 80 kts
Altitude - Adjust based on VASI
Gear - Check the gear light
Scan - Look for traffic

Over the Threshold

Airspeed - target for aircraft, usually 70 or 80 kts
Altitude - Adjust based on VASI or sight picture
Gear - Are you sure the gear are down?

I have target MP or RPM for each leg that I don’t repeat each time, I just set them and adjust as necessary for wind. Same thing for flaps, I put the first notch down at the numbers or final approach fix and the the rest near the threshold.


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