I have just seen this video of what has been called a runway incursion at LEBL (my hometown airport). A russian jet initiates a go-around after seeing an argentinian plane crossing runway 02:


It's not clear (as of 2014-07-07 1400L) whether ATC gave clearance to cross the runway. Anyway, my understanding is that even with ATC clearance you are required to check for incoming traffic and hold short of the runway if such traffic exists.

Seems like the taxiing crew either didn't look for incoming aircraft or they estimated they had enough separation to cross the runway.

So, is there any regulated separation distance (time/space) that can be used to tell who was responsible for this conflict? It's solely based on pilots' criteria?

  • $\begingroup$ I think it's just no-one on the runway (past hold markers) from giving clearance to land to the landing aircraft leaving the runway. Existing traffic is allowed at time of issue as long a the pilot is advised and it will clear before arrival. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 7, 2014 at 12:48
  • $\begingroup$ According to this article, "The airport's administrators say that the two airplanes were exactly where they were supposed to be, claiming there was enough distance between them". $\endgroup$
    – Doc
    Commented Jul 7, 2014 at 18:54
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    $\begingroup$ According to avherald, it was an operational error, both a landing clearance and a crossing clearance were issued. They also further report there was a mixup in the operations, where the ground controller thought runway 2 was no longer in use issuing a crossing clearance without coordinating with the local controller. $\endgroup$
    – falstro
    Commented Jul 10, 2014 at 7:44
  • $\begingroup$ Just to note that in the USA (unlike in Barcelona, apparently?) a crossing is allowed even if an aircraft has been cleared to land. The crossing must be completed, which means the aircraft is across the runway edge and nothing is restricting its movement beyond the opposite hold-short line, before the landing aircraft reaches the landing threshold. $\endgroup$
    – randomhead
    Commented Feb 13 at 15:37

1 Answer 1


When an aircraft has been given a clearance to land on a runway, that runway is exclusively reserved for the landing aircraft. (Except for LAHSO and "land after" operations, where only part of the runway is reserved for the landing aircraft).

That means that no other aircraft or vehicle should be on that runway. In this case, clearly something went unplanned. Either the crossing aircraft was not given permission to cross, the landing aircraft no clearance to land, or ATC mistakenly cleared both the landing aircraft and the crossing aircraft to access the runway.

Pilots should always check if the runway they are accessing is safe, and in this case the crew of the landing aircraft did apparently observe the incursion and aborted their landing. The crew of the crossing aircraft noticed the landing aircraft a bit late, but you hear their engines spool up as well as they cross. The sound of the go-around thrust arrives second later due to the difference in distance.

The crossing aircraft seems to be taxiing toward the rising sun so they may have been blinded and missed the fact that they were crossing a runway.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Good point about the rising sun! $\endgroup$
    – orique
    Commented Jul 7, 2014 at 13:02
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ In the US, with the right equipment, controllers can clear an aircraft to land while another is still holding for departure. Additionally, depending on aircraft weight class, they can issue a clearance that puts the arriving aircraft over the threshold while the previous arrival is still on the runway and as few as 3000 feet from the threshold. FAA JO 7110.65, section 3.10: faa.gov/air_traffic/publications/atpubs/ATC/atc0310.html $\endgroup$
    – NathanG
    Commented Jul 7, 2014 at 14:55
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    $\begingroup$ The U.S. uses "anticipated separation" whereas the rest of the world uses actual separation. In terms of runway separation, this means that in the U.S., a controller may clear two aircraft to land before either is anywhere near the runway. If you listen in on ATC at a class D airport with lots of flight training, it'll not be all too uncommon to clear two aircraft on downwind to land (the second has to have the first in sight, and is given the extra "number two" condition to the clearance). I don't think any other country in the world does this, but I might be mistaken. $\endgroup$
    – falstro
    Commented Jul 10, 2014 at 7:41
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    $\begingroup$ A few months ago there were lots of planes in the pattern and the controller was clearing us to follow the plane in front of us and we were #n to land. There were so many of us that he lost track of which number the last one he cleared was. I don’t remember his exact words, but it was something like "Cessna XXX follow the Cherokee passing the numbers, you’re number five...no six... or whatever. " $\endgroup$
    – JScarry
    Commented Jan 16, 2017 at 19:35
  • $\begingroup$ I would think that for safety, if a LASHO clearance is given, any departing aircraft should need to acknowledge awareness of the incoming aircraft before being given clearance, and the departing aircraft pilot should be required to watch the incoming aircraft and be prepared for anything that it might plausibly need to do. Essentially, a LAHSO would give the incoming plane exclusive use of the entire runway, but ask that the pilot demonstrate as quickly as possible that it will definitely not be needed. Is that how things are done, or are things more "optimistic"? $\endgroup$
    – supercat
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 17:56

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