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9 Things To Know About Your Runway Before You Land

What factors should you consider before committing to a runway?

1) Length and width

One of the most important considerations you'll make is whether the runway is long enough for you to take off and land comfortably. Also, consider adding a safety margin to the performance figures you'll find in your plane's POH.


2) Lighting

Lighting is important during the daytime as well as at night. Make sure you understand what type of approach path indicators (if any) the airport has. At night, check the VFR sectional or chart supplement to see what lighting is available, and if you can control runway and taxiway lights.

3) Are you going left or right once you land?

Once you've made your landing, will you be exiting to the left, right, or at the end? Briefing a runway exit expectation ahead of time can reduce your workload as you roll down the runway.



Nothing is more embarrassing than firing up your engine, taxing out your plane, doing a runup only to discover that the runway is closed. Read through the NOTAMs before your flight, and save yourself the hassle and embarrassment.

5) Blast pads and displaced thresholds

Displaced thresholds can be used for taxing and takeoff, but not for landing. Blast pads can not be used for taxing, takeoff, or landing. Make sure that you don't make a short landing on either of these surfaces. You can identify these ahead of time on an airport diagram or in the chart supplement.


6) Can the runway be confused with a taxiway or road?

Also found in the chart supplement under the remarks section are warnings about mistaking something that is not a runway for a runway.


7) Obstructions

Look for tall obstructions on the approach and departure ends of the runway you plan to land at. This is another reason NOTAMs are so important, they will contain specific information about obstructions like cranes in the vicinity of an airport.

8) Surface conditions

The weather can change your decision-making process when selecting airports and runways to land on. After heavy rain, water can pool on the runway, increasing your risk of dynamic hydroplaning, so a grooved runway might be a better option than a smooth runway.


9) Right or left pattern?

Flying a left pattern is expected unless otherwise noted or directed by air traffic control. Where can you find a clue that you are expected to fly a right pattern? On a sectional or TAC, the letters "RP" represent a right pattern, followed by the runway number(s) the right pattern applies to.

Take The Next Step...

Do you have a perfect takeoff and landing every time? Neither do we. That's why we built our Mastering Takeoffs and Landings online course.

You'll learn strategies, tactics and fundamental principles that you can use on your next flight, and just about any takeoff or landing scenario you could imagine. Even better, the course is full of tools you can come back to throughout your flying career.

Nicolas Shelton

Nicolas is a private pilot from Southern California. He is currently studying at Purdue University, where he is working on advanced pilot ratings. You can reach him at

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