I am a fairly new pilot. I recently flew to a non-towered airport in Quebec, Canada (Lachute, CSE4). There is a significant displaced threshold on each end of the runway. The airport has one taxiway which goes up to about half the length of the runway. Because the taxiway doesn't extend all the way, back taxi is required on one of the runways.

When I attempted to depart I noticed that all CTAF announcements were being made in French. Before I got to my holding point I had to cross the runway and I spoke in English before I did so. I do not speak or understand French. Once I got to the holding point I noticed two aircrafts which were performing touch and goes. There was really no time for an aircraft to takeoff before one of them would be on the base leg or the final. I waited for several minutes. I noticed another plane also waiting at another holding point. A third aircraft was taxiing and about to queue up behind me.

My question is:

  1. What is the correct procedure in this situation? Do we continue to wait until the other aircraft finish their touch and goes?
  2. If there is no procedure defined (I'm not aware of any), what is the correct etiquette in this situation?

After waiting for a while I waited for one of the aircrafts to take off. Then I immediately stated my intentions to back taxi on the active runway and started the back taxi. I saw the second aircraft turning from base to final and I accelerated towards the end of the runway and positioned myself towards the beginning of the runway/displacement threshold. There was no way I could have attempted a takeoff.

However, what I did made a number of people very unhappy and they berated me and told me that I should brush up my procedures (in English this time). I haven't come across this situation in my training. Can someone please help clarify the correct/accepted process?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. If you wanted to answer, please use the answer box. $\endgroup$
    – Jamiec
    Commented Jun 13, 2018 at 13:53
  • $\begingroup$ I think if you are flying in French speaking airspace, you should speak French. $\endgroup$
    – Cloud
    Commented Nov 20, 2018 at 10:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Cloud you are 100% wrong. English is the language of ATC across the entire world. $\endgroup$
    – Jamiec
    Commented Nov 20, 2018 at 11:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Jamiec Sorry, I did not mean you should 'officially' be fluent. But like any non-native situation, knowing a few words could make all the difference and maybe people would respond better. $\endgroup$
    – Cloud
    Commented Nov 20, 2018 at 11:54
  • $\begingroup$ @Jamiec Also, French speakers are notorious for resisting when someone tries to force them to speak English. I'm not sure what it's like in Canada, but in France, you do not get a good reception if you just start barking in English at people. $\endgroup$
    – Cloud
    Commented Nov 20, 2018 at 11:55

2 Answers 2


The problem with uncontrolled airports is that sometimes the procedures and "etiquette" can be informal. The pilots based at the airport have established their own informal procedures which are not published anywhere or are part of any rule book. In cases like this I would consult the FBO for the local procedures (which you did do) but that doesn't mean that all the pilots at the airport abide by them. In your situation this is what I would have done:

  1. I would have announced on the CTAF that I cannot speak French and would request that all pilots announce their intentions in English. By international convention pilots are required to communicate to ATC via English unless there is an emergency. However CTAF communications tend to be more informal and the pilots at the local airport may prefer to speak in the language they are the most comfortable. Still the intent of CTAF is to communicate with everyone at the airport to announce their intentions. It would have been entirely proper to request the pilots to speak in English.

  2. I would have requested the pilots performing the touch and goes to give you a window in which to back taxi and takeoff. I find it rather rude for pilots to monopolize the pattern and runway performing touch and goes. If they see that there is a line of planes wanting to takeoff they should leave the pattern for a while and let folks takeoff before resuming their touch and goes. Asking politely on the radio for these pilots to do this for you is reasonable.

  3. If they were giving you grief for not using the grass to taxi to the runway they had no right to do that. Taxing on grass can be dangerous especially in tricycle gear aircraft where the potential for a prop hit with the ground is a real possibility. In my case I am bound by the club rules not to taxi on any surface that is not paved. Back taxing would be the appropriate thing to do.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. All of this is good advice. I'm not exactly sure what they were unhappy about. Someone just came over the radio and said that I needed to 'Brush up my procedures'. I don't really know what exactly he was objecting to. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 12, 2018 at 19:19
  • $\begingroup$ "By international convention pilots are required to communicate to ATC via English unless there is an emergency." I've never heard that one, and I'm pretty sure if it was the case, my radiotelephony instructor would have mentioned it. In the radiotelephony class I was in, we practiced communicating with ATC in both Swedish and English. The regulations here allow for both, and specify that the first call from the aircraft determines the language to use, though you need a separate theoretical and proficiency exam for each language privilege. Can you provide a reference for your claim? $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Aug 22, 2018 at 21:30

With the airport markings, the displaced threshold beyond the runway is available for takeoff.

So I see the two possible intersection departures as: 2,682 feet and 3,607 (measured by google maps:)

Runway 28 Distance

Runway 10 Distance.

You should've done an intersection depature.

Failing that, you can simply announce:
"N567 requires full length departure: Request that airplanes in the pattern extend their downwind while I back-taxi and depart"

Unless you are actually saying you were at the intersection right in the middle of the field, which is a poor choice, because it is clearly connected to the intersection near the departure end of 28. You should've taxi'd over there on the taxiway, with no back-taxi on the runway.

  • $\begingroup$ Yes, the way it works on this airport is that you start on the right side of this picture, cross the runway and taxi towards the mid point. This is where I was holding short. There is no taxiway connecting this to the other holding point nearer the departure point for runway 10. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 12, 2018 at 19:17

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