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7 Things To Remember During A Last Minute Runway Change

This story was made in partnership with AOPA Pilot Protection Services. Make sure your certificates are protected before your next flight. Learn more and get started here.

ATC just asked you to make a last-minute runway change, right after you finished briefing your intended landing runway. Here's what you need to do when this happens to you...

1) First, Set Personal Minimums For Runway Changes

Most airlines don't allow their pilots to accept runway changes below certain altitudes. If you're on final approach at 1,000 feet above the ground, is this really a great time to accept a runway change?

If you're familiar with the airport and flying a light, single-engine piston aircraft, maybe! But usually, you'll need a little more time to prepare for arrival. Have a set of personal minimums in mind if you get a last-minute runway change.


2) Program Your New Approach Right Away

One of the best things you can do is to get the new runway's approach loaded into your flight plan. By doing that, you'll know you're lined up for the right runway.

The catch? Remember to fly the airplane above everything else. Don't get too caught up, heads-down, in the busy airspace. If you're having trouble loading the new approach, ask for more time from ATC.

Live from the Flight Deck

3) Give An Abbreviated Approach Briefing

Short approach briefings are important during last-minute runway changes. If it's a simple side-step to a larger runway, it may not take much briefing. But if you find yourself flying to a short runway on the other side of the airport, facing an entirely different direction, you may want to dig in a little deeper.


4) Flying Visual? Back Up Your Approach

As with any visual approach, the best thing you can do is back up the approach with a navigation aid. It could be a GPS approach, ILS, or even a VOR approach to that runway. It's a great way to make sure you're aligned with the correct piece of pavement!


5) Is The Runway Long Enough?

It may sound simple, but the most important thing you need to ask yourself during a last-minute runway change is "Do I have enough room to land?" This may not matter in smaller aircraft, but if you're flying larger aircraft, you'll need to take this into serious consideration.

Form the habit of comparing your calculated landing distance to the runway length early on.


6) Which Direction Do You Plan To Exit?

When you touch down on the new runway, which direction do you plan to exit? Knowing this is especially important at large airports, where wrong turns can immediately jam up the flow of ground traffic.


7) You Can Always Ask For More Time

You're the pilot in command, and you can ALWAYS ask for more time from ATC. Don't let the pressure to land inhibit your ability to safely fly the approach, land, and taxi to parking.


Have you ever received a last minute runway change from ATC? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Protect your certificate with AOPA Pilot Protection Services. Learn more and get started here.

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