Airport Holding Markings: You Can Fool Some of the People...

Airport Holding Markings: You Can Fool Some of the People...

By Rod Machado

Here's the scenario: From your present position shown in the graphic above ATC says, " to Runway 19R via taxiway Whiskey, hold short of Runway 19R at Whiskey Eight." (The beginning of Runway 19R is located at the far, north end of Taxiway W where W8 is also found.)

As you taxi, you come across a set of yellow solid-double and dashed-double hold markings directly ahead of you, as shown in the picture above. What are you required to do? 

A. Hold and ask for a clearance to cross the solid double-yellow lines.
B. Nothing. You may cross these lines without an ATC clearance.
C. Cross these lines, then stop. If ATC doesn't say anything, keep going.

If you picked answer A, that would be incorrect. The correct answer is "B."

Wait! Don't go all Hong-Kong Kung-fu on me. Let me explain.

First, I asked what you are required to do. I didn't ask what you should do or what would be reasonable to do. The holding markings you see in front of you (solid double bars on your side in the graphic above) are known as taxiway holding position markings, not runway holding position markings (which prevent the unauthorized entry onto a runway). When taxiway holding position markings are located next to a runway sign showing the letters "APCH" on it, then you are only required to stop if ATC specifically instructs you to hold short of these markings. This is one of the more confusing aspects of runway signage foisted on unwary pilots, especially student pilots.

Here's what paragraph 2-3-5(3) of the AIM says.

And here's what subparagraph 2-3-8b2 says.

Taxiway holding position markings (yellow solid-double and dashed-double barsare placed on a taxiway when an aircraft might interfere with nearby runway operations. This interference might be physical (your big tail sticks up in the air and scares pilots on final approach) or electronic in nature (your airplane interferes with glideslope/localizer signals). These holding position markings look exactly the same as the runway holding position markings, except that they aren't meant to prevent the unauthorized entrance to the runway. 

You can identify these holding position markings on taxiways by the presence of a sign with white-on-red lettering having a runway designation (1L) followed by a dash (-) followed by letters APCH.  

Looking at the graphic below, if you are cleared to taxi NE bound on Delta and ATC didn't specifically say, "Hold short of Runway 15 approach," then you are not obligated to stop at these hold bars on taxiway Delta. Instead, you may cross them without an ATC clearance. The hold bars in the example below protect the runway approach area (or, this can also be the runway departure area, too). 

Wise pilot that you are, you might be asking, why not just use a taxiway holding position marking (a single dashed yellow line across the taxiway) instead of using yellow solid-double and dashed-double markings? After all, isn't that why airports have a taxiway holding position marking? I suspect the FAA felt that pilots do not pay as much attention to single yellow-dashed lines compared to their supersized double-solid/dashed cousins. So the FAA opted for that which all pilots are conditioned to notice: double-solid/dashed bars.

Now you know what you are required to do. However, what would you actually do when you encounter holding position markings on a taxiway as shown in the graphics above? 

My advice to you is to always stop and query the controller. Period. That's right. STOP and make sure you are cleared to cross those solid double yellow lines! Even if you don't need a clearance to cross the taxiway holding markings, get one anyway, or at least check in with the controller before crossing them. The worst that can happen is that the controller gets uppity with you. If he does, then start speaking to him as fast as he speaks to you. Problem solved.

The fact that there is an exception to the clearance requirement to cross the yellow solid-double and dashed-double lines is note-worthy. Yes, I realize the runway and taxiway hold lines have different names. So what? They look exactly alike, and that's what matters here.

I find it interesting that the FAA goes out of its way to identify likely areas where pilots are might accidentally cross runway hold markings without a clearance. The FAA even give these areas special names called hot spots and depict them on airport taxi diagrams to prevent runway incursions. Then, if a pilot experiences a runway incursion, he's sent to a ground-school-gulag where he's forced to print out runway signs (OK, maybe not, but it feels like that, anyway). My point is, everyone knows that runway incursions are serious events! The FAA's exception to the clearance requirement for crossing holding markings on a taxiway seems likely to increase these incursions, not lessen them. It's a deeply unwise policy, in my opinion.

What's my solution to the FAA's policy here? Why not require a clearance to cross all taxiway holding markings? If I were in charge of the FAA for a day (the longest I would remain in the job before being fired and sent to that gulag I mentioned earlier), I would require a clearance to cross "ALL" taxiway holding markings. That seems like common sense to me.

It's been said before and it's appropriate to say it again (with a twist). You can fool some pilots some of the time, but you can't fool all pilots all the time--however, taxiway holding markings come pretty close. 




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