Does it depend on the weight of an aircraft? If two planes requested take off permission and taxied out to the runway at the same time what would determine which plane takes off first (is it to do with weight or flight path?)

If you have an A320 and an A380, which would take off first?


2 Answers 2


The busier airports around the world are slot controlled, meaning that each flight is assigned a designated departure or arrival time that they must be ready for. In this case it’s pretty straightforward who goes first - whoever has the first slot.

Non-slot controlled airports are usually on a first come first served basis, with some exceptions. Private flights have to wait for scheduled airline flights, and airliners wait for air ambulances. If two aircraft are departing on the same route, the faster one will go first if they have a significant speed difference. And the heaviest aircraft need greater separation for wake turbulence, so an A320 might get preference over an A380.

That doesn’t mean your A380 will have to wait for 15 A320s though. In practice these are only guidelines and the decision as to who goes first is based on the needs of the traffic system on the whole considering all of the factors at the time.

  • $\begingroup$ Can an air ambulance use a slot-controlled airport? Or do they try to avoid them if they can? $\endgroup$ Nov 2, 2017 at 16:38
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelSeifert They can and do, but I think more often than not they prefer to avoid them. Just because they have priority that doesn’t mean things happen all that quickly, and smaller airports are often closer to their intended destination. $\endgroup$
    – Ben
    Nov 4, 2017 at 3:36

Based on my experience at not particularly busy Class D and C airports, it is first come, first served with some caveats.

All of the airliners and most of the jets have an IFR flight plan that has a specific time that they have to be off. If they are flying into a busy airport they may also be subject to an EDCT that further restricts when they can take off. The tower will manage traffic so that they can take off in their allotted time frame. In my experience, that mostly means that they will extend the downwind of planes in the pattern to get the big guys off on time. They will also keep you in the runup area a bit longer so that the big guys can take off on time.

I fly out of mostly smaller airports and what is much more common is for the tower to manage the traffic pattern so that airliners and jets can land straight-in or with minimal delay.

The rules might be different at places like Vero Beach where there is a lot of flight training.

To get a feel for how it works at a busy airport, search YouTube for "Kennedy Steve". There are lots of recordings of him moving planes around on the ground at JFK.


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