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How-to vacate the runway? Easy isn't it?

Michael Krause

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Hello everybody,

encouraged by the super-positive feedback to my "transitions in Germany" posting yesterday I'd like to follow-up will another topic that seems to leave some pilots unsure on what they are supposed to do and what they are allowed to do - vacating the runway.

At first glance this sounds totally easy - vacating? So just get off the runway and everybody should be happy or? But how far shall you go then on the taxiway? And which turn-off should you have used in the first place? Airport layouts vary extremely all over the world and same applies for the taxiways leading to and from the runways - from high-speed turn-offs to just a single connection enforcing a back-track after landing nearly everything is possible. So I definitely can't go into each one of them - and for some it's either written in the charts or advised by the controller if it's ok to use a (non-) active crossing runway for taxi or not. But there are some assumptions and common features that you can always apply.

First of all - always have a look at the airport layout when you are doing your little approach briefing - what is the runway setup, where are the terminals, even without knowing which gate you might end up with - get an overview: How long is the landing runway, how much landing distance will you likely need -> what are the possible taxiways for vacating - does it make sense to break hard to catch an exit prior a longer stretch without any or are there high-speed turn-offs and you can stay rather fast? This mental picture will help you a lot later-on when things might get busy after landing.

Let's start with the first decision you have to take - which turn-off to take?
Sometimes it's easy - ATC simply will tell you via which taxiway to vacate during the approach - either because there isn't much traffic and he/she wants to make it at smooth as possible for you or there are other reasons like blocked taxiways with departing traffic etc. Picture? yeah let's look at an example:
This is Nürnberg, EDDN - landing direction in this case in rwy 28 (the blue arrow) - and as you can see there is a smaller GA turbo-prop waiting at taxiway C for takeoff. So if you are now coming in to land I as tower would tell you to "vacate via D or later" just to make sure that you don't end up head-on with the outbound and you don't smash into your breaks hard as it might initially have looked like a shortening of the taxi to the gates just to realize that C is blocked and then rather slowly continue to taxi on the active runway to the next exit. As atc my priority is to get the runway free as soon as possible so I can use it again for departures or following arrivals.

Let's look at another example:
This is Munich, EDDM - landing direction here rwy 26R - and you can already see this airport is suited for way more traffic than Nürnberg - there are taxiways designed to allow arriving traffic to quickly leave the active runway to ensure really rapid departure and arrival sequences. These taxiways have no real speed limit but most airlines have some defined in their procedures - you can easily use them with 60 kts. Here also as tower I might tell you "vacating via A4 approved" if I have low traffic and want to shorten you slower taxi to Apron 1 (which is in the west) but usually I would expect you to leave the runway as soon as possible and as quick as possible so I can release the next departure or the next arrival might already be close to the threshold when you get off the runway - we only need 2.5 nm spacing on the final if conditions are right - so that trailing aircraft might already be flashing the landing lights for you to get off. 😉

Let's look a bit closer to that part in the middle with the unmarked taxiway 90° to the runway:
I put the red X there for a reason - this taxiway is closed in RL but that's not reflected in some sceneries (especially default) - but also if it would be open - don't use such a turn-off if you have the option between such a 90° (or more) turn on the runway after landing compared to a high-speed exit via one of the high-speed taxiways. Again - the goal is to get you off the runway as quick as possible. Here it is closed for real but also at other airports - the controller will always appreciate it if you pick the quick exit versus the slow one (except he told you differently).

You will have spotted the little red lines on the taxiways in the screenshots above and you for sure will also have seen lines in your scenery at this position - what about them and connected the question "where to stop?" - "how far shall I go on my own then?". Let's have a look now at the simulator:
Every now and then I see pilots stopping at this position - just landed on runway 26R, vacated via A6 and now there is this line on the ground so "better stop here...or??". No, don't stop if you are going in this direction! This is the holding point marker for departures.
In the close-up you can see the difference in the marking - for the departure-direction you have 2 solid lines which indicate "STOP!" (unless cleared to cross/line-up/takeoff) - but for you as an arrival in your direction there are two dashed lines which indicate to not stop here as this line isn't applicable for you. If you stop at this position you are still so close to the runway that you are inside the protected area. So continue on until you reach the next real stopping point or taxiway junction where it would be possible for you to take at least 2 different paths.

So we continue on our taxiway until we come to another line - what's now this?
You have found a CAT II/III holding point - this is only relevant for low visibility procedures. Departures will be cleared to taxi only until this point when CAT II or III ILS approaches are done (so mainly during fog) as the area between these lines and the runway has to be clear to not impact the precision of the localizer. So also for arrivals under such weather conditions it's important to leave this area asap to enable the next aircraft to land - so continue also here.

Now we reached a point where it is no longer clear where you shall go - straight-right or hard-left on M? - continue on A6 in the middle to then go left or right on N? - that's where you stop if you didn't get any further instruction - but also really don't go further on your own as there might be traffic crossing on these taxiways etc. - if ATC is busy you can take the waiting-time now to clean-up your aircraft (flaps etc.) - for him/her you are now a slightly lower priority and he/she will first issue takeoff, landing or line-up clearances but will also try to get you away from this position quickly as behind there might already be the next 1 or 2 aircraft vacating via the same taxiway... so if you get an instruction while "cleaning up" - taxi first and then continue with the flaps etc. when you are on your way. Even in RL you sometimes see aircraft turning into the gate with flaps just moving to the up position if the taxi-in went real quick and the FO was busy doing the radio.
Just a little look back to the runway - as you can see you already made a lot of room there compared to stopping too early.

This was now a look at a rather simple example - there are places where due to very close-by parallel runways it is crucial to stop earlier - let's have a look at the Vatsim-Germany ground chart for Berlin Tegel (EDDT) for this (https://vatsim-germany.org/pilots/aerodrome/EDDT):
Imagine you land on rwy 26R and vacate via the high-speed turn-off RW - the parallel runway 26L is very close and there could be a departure going out while you are still in the roll-out. So make sure you check the lines in front of you on the taxiway - if the double-solid line is on the side you are coming from -> Stop! if not otherwise instructed.

That's about all that came across my mind when thinking about this topic - let me know if you have (further) questions - it's well possible that out there are way more complicated situations with crossing runways and taxiways but the general principles should be the same - and if in doubt - just ask the controller - always try to be some steps ahead of your aircraft by asking yourself "what will I have to do next and might there be something unclear?".

So far - stay healthy and safe and always three greens! 🙂


Edited by Michael Krause
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  • 1 year later...

Thank you so much Michael! Even as a former R/L pilot I've been left kind of confused on bigger airports (on which landing is, due to the excessive costs, of course more of a luxury thing to do or you need to get  max PAX for your aircraft for sharing :)). Anyways, your post made things much more clear to me!


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I would like to add that if, at all possible, please consider reading the airport specific text pages from the AIP (usually available for free) or the briefing pages from your chart provider like Navigraph. They contain useful information about any restrictions and procedures that you should be aware of. As an example here is a picture from the text pages for Helsinki (EFHK) of the arrival part that 80% of the pilots get wrong. (Vacating ZG from 22L during busy events will lead to chaos as that is where 50% of the departures wait to cross the landing rwy.)


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Christian Kovanen
Director of VATSIM Scandinavia
Membership Audit Team Lead

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I disagree that ATCs role is to get you off the runway as quickly as possible, its their job to ensure that the runway is safe while I am using it, that means if I am still on it longer than expected or anticipated then instruct a go around. The runway is mine untill I have safety cleared it. 

Kirk Christie - VATPAC C3

VATPAC Undercover ATC Agent

Worldflight Perth 737-800 Crew Member


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17 hours ago, Kirk Christie said:

I disagree that ATCs role is to get you off the runway as quickly as possible, its their job to ensure that the runway is safe while I am using it, that means if I am still on it longer than expected or anticipated then instruct a go around. The runway is mine untill I have safety cleared it. 

However all your actions should consider as much reduced occupancy time as possible. Safety is no 1, but that would be considered as priority only in emergency or ocasionally happening bust. I can imagine applying (financial?) consequences for a carriers/operators that notoriously do not obey with MROT (Minimum Runway Occupancy Time) just because of laziness/own mindness.

Edited by Mateusz Zymla
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Mateusz Zymla - 1131338

VATSIMer since 2009, IRL pilot rated.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Runway Vacation Rule:

---> Fast enough but not too much or you loose the aircraft controls

---> Never declare runway vacate until you cross the yellow line or otherwise your examinar or your senior flight instructor will use this to fail because he hates you (Real case scenario) :classic_dry:

---> Official rules tell, you should always follow the yellow line but if your are alone on a general avaition aircraft: shortcut (If you destroy your aircraft, it is your fault)


Edited by Luca Melis
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