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Calm Wind At Nontowered Airport Leads To Landing Incident


Have you ever wondered which runway is the best choice on a calm wind day? Here's how that choice nearly led to a head-on collision.

Mistakes Made By Both Pilots

The following NASA ASRS report details the incident...

I was on final approach to Runway 12 at MLE; winds were calm and the preferred runway for calm winds was Runway 12. When I was about 500 ft above ground, a plane called on the Unicom that he was taking off on Runway 30 (opposite end of my landing runway). I called him on the radio and cautioned him about our position, and impending landing. He did not respond. I flared and on my rollout, I noticed he had begun his takeoff roll. I called again, but again, no response. I had turned on my landing light far out on final, which I usually do. I flashed the landing light several times, hoping they would see us.

I had no choice but to continue my landing rollout, and was ready to exit the runway onto the grass if the other aircraft did not stop. Just before I reached a taxiway to exit the runway, the other aircraft had begun to slow down. He stopped on the runway as I was exiting onto the taxiway.

No collision, no damage, but a little scary. Notwithstanding the fact that my radio communications were not heard by this other pilot, he should have checked the runway visually for any other traffic, which he did not.


There are a few things we can learn from this landing incident. The pilot approaching Runway 12 could have initiated a go-around when the opposing aircraft facing head-on down the runway did not respond to his radio call. The pilot on final approach stated that they were about 500 feet above the ground when they radioed the warning over frequency, leaving time to analyze whether the opposing aircraft would hold-short or continue the takeoff.

Additionally, the pilot departing Runway 30 should have monitored the radio and held short of the runway as the other aircraft landed. On a calm wind day with little traffic, it's easy to fall into a pattern of complacency, especially at a non-towered airport.

Moments like these are when you should be most vigilant. The pilot taking off on Runway 30 either misheard the approaching aircraft, or wasn't monitoring the radio at all.

Is There A Preferred Runway?

If you're flying into a non-towered field, there's often a preferred runway for calm wind conditions. If it's not listed in any publications, try contacting the local FBO or UNICOM operator to find out.

As you're approaching your destination, monitor the CTAF frequency. That will give you a good picture of which runway other traffic is using.

Are There Intersecting Runways?

Some non-towered airports have multiple runways that intersect. During calm wind conditions, pay extra attention to intersections where there's an added risk for traffic conflicts. You may not be able to see the ends of other runways, making it difficult, if not impossible, to scan for traffic on the ground.


Not Sure? Ask For Clarification

Have a mental picture of where each airplane is located, and what their intentions are. If you need clarification from another pilot, simply ask.

And if there's someone on the ground to help with traffic advisories like a UNICOM operator, use them as a resource.


When In Doubt, Hold Short Or Go-Around

If you're ever in doubt about which runway you should be using, or where other traffic is, hold short or go-around. Spending a few extra minutes of your time is well worth it to avoid a situation like the story above.

Have you ever had a traffic mix-up like this? How do you manage calm wind conditions? Tell us in the comments below.

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