I’m currently a CFI/CFII/MEI at a flight school based out of Falcon Field (KFFZ.) Falcon has a pair of runways, 4/22 R/L. When the tower closes, runway 4L/22R is closed.

During a training event this afternoon while approaching the airport (after CT closure,) the student (a new hire CFI) made pattern calls appropriately, however, would state “left downwind runway four,” etc. He stated that a previous instructor had “chewed him out” in the past for saying “runway four right” after the parallel runway had closed. The student in the backseat, who had a different instructor, corroborated the information and stated he was taught the same.

My initial reaction was: that’s ridiculous. The designation of a runway doesn’t change simply because the parallel is temporarily closed. However, my inner instructor wants to find some kind of actual reference to support an answer.

Has anyone heard of, or learned this, before? And if so, do you have a reference? I‘ve never heard of this before and was curious if anyone here has. Any information would be appreciated, if you’ve even heard of such a thing.

  • 20
    $\begingroup$ The runway doesn't disappear because the tower closes, it makes no sense to act like it does. $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    Sep 14, 2022 at 7:47
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ What could have been the worst aviation disaster on US soil AC759 approach SFO came within feet of occurring because pilot confused parallel taxiway w/parallel runway. If it ain't decommissioned and plowed under, it's still there, so designate L/R. Interestingly, that "incident" did not meet FAA reporting requirements, but someone did the right thing. $\endgroup$
    – Ian W
    Sep 14, 2022 at 10:35
  • $\begingroup$ I would suggest that instead of asking us for supporting evidence, ask those who claim that this is correct. i.e. talk to the new CFI and the student in the backseat to support their claims. Have them get back with their instructors, if necessary, to find some regulation to support their assertion. $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Sep 14, 2022 at 12:56
  • $\begingroup$ I would write to the local GADO and get an opinion from them, without naming names or slagging anybody, just present the circumstances and ask the proper way to do it. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Sep 14, 2022 at 13:02
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @FreeMan, typically this would be my course of action. And I did indeed have them reach out to their instructors for reference. However, I was writing more to determine if anyone else had heard of this and if so could they cite where. I was fairly confident in my personal analysis. Thanks! $\endgroup$
    – Cether
    Sep 14, 2022 at 14:26

2 Answers 2


There is no guidance that runway/tower closure status should change the name of a runway in the AIM, Airplane Flying Handbook, 7110.65, or anything else I've ever read. If such guidance exists somewhere, it's not well publicized.

And as you said, the alleged guidance would make no sense at all. In the situation you describe at Falcon Field, calling "runway four" is potentially ambiguous. But calling "runway four right" is never ambiguous: in the harshest possible analysis it's simply redundant. Redundancy is clearly preferable to ambiguity (indeed, something that eliminates ambiguity is by definition not redundant) and so there is no intelligible rationale to the other instructors' claims.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This was my explanation to the candidate/student as well. It simply isn’t logical to ignore the closed runway, and I could find no evidence to the contrary either. Thanks! @StephenS I was confident there was no evidence. My question was more to determine if anyone had heard of this, and if so, could they cite where. I’m confident in my own evidentiary discovery, and I’m fact absence of evidence is just fine with me. $\endgroup$
    – Cether
    Sep 14, 2022 at 14:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Cether Fair enough, thanks for clarifying. $\endgroup$
    – StephenS
    Sep 14, 2022 at 17:00
  • $\begingroup$ Reminds me of the trouble Air Canada 759 had landing at SFO runway 28. $\endgroup$ Sep 17, 2022 at 3:03
  • $\begingroup$ @Harper-ReinstateMonica, that's what I said, 28R $\endgroup$
    – Ian W
    Sep 17, 2022 at 4:12

The "chewing out" instructor is an deeply misguided and a danger to his students: a runway's name is basically permanent. It can be changed, but everything associated with it, like approach plates, runway signage, facilities directories, etc all change at the same time.

Regularly, one parallel runway is closed for months for construction - basically rebuilding it. And the NOTAMs all remind you, for months on end, that "RWY 01L/19R CLSD" and operations continue on 1R/19L. Which keeps its name, unchanged, even though it is the airport's only open runway on the 1/19 orientation.

Whatever that CFI was promoting about the sole open runway being renamed twice daily is wrongheaded and foolish. One might wonder how he thinks the big long strip of pavement parallel to the operating runway should be referred to... did it suddenly become "Taxiway Zulu" when it closed as a runway? (You got a NOTAM or AFD reference for that?) Or is it still 4L, like the paint at its southwest end says? In which case, read out loud what it says on the runway to its right...

Or imagine the case of parallel approaches: if the open runway is now suddenly "runway 4", and I'm cleared for the ILS to "runway 4", should I use the frequency from the approach to the runway-formerly-known-as-4R, or for the other ILS-to-runway-4-something? Because even when the runway is closed, an approach to it can still be available for use with side-step or circling mins! (And while the pilot can be expected to know all the closure NOTAMS for all the airports he might use, his FMS and paper Jepp charts are still going to have "4R" and "4L" but nothing for just "4".)

No, that CFI was so wildly far off base it may be hard to find a one sentence statement that "no, we don't rename runways each time a parallel runway closes or reopens." But a cursory consideration of actual practice makes it perfectly clear that that's not what happens. If this "instructor" is actually griping at students over this, a sitdown with a chief instructor or an ASI (i.e. a Fed) would be in order -- he has betrayed his responsibility to teach the material he has been entrusted with.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .