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How Often Do You Check The Airport Hot Spots?

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Have you ever been confused by a maze of taxi routes on the ground? Getting disoriented during taxi has happened to every pilot out there. In the worst case, one wrong turn could lead you onto an active runway.

Here's what you need to know about airport "hot spots," where flight crews commonly make mistakes, and how to brief them.

What Are "Hot Spots" And Why Do They Matter?

According to the FAA, "a hot spot is defined as a location on an airport movement area with a history of potential risk of collision or runway incursion, and where heightened attention by pilots is necessary."

They're clearly marked with circles or boxes on taxi diagrams, and each hot spot is designated with "HS for "hot spot," followed by a number designation. If you use Jeppesen Charts, hot spots are marked in red. If you use FAA Charts, hot spots are marked in brown.

Supplemental airport pages describe why the hot spot exists, and what specific risks you'll face there. You'll run into hot spots throughout your career, and you need to have a plan in place for handling them.

HS5: Miami International Airport (KMIA)

In Miami, Hot Spot 5 is located at a corner between the arrival end of Runway 8R and Runway 12. Taxiways M, P, and Q all converge on this single point. Because of the compact spacing, there are two sets of hold short lines. The first set of hold short bars for departure on either runway are well before the threshold, on the taxiway.

A second set of hold short bars are painted immediately before the runway as another barrier to ensure pilots don't inadvertently enter the runway. Unfortunately, it's a common occurrence for pilots flying out of Miami to inadvertently cross the hold short lines here.

While the tower usually makes a "slap on the wrist" call, it could lead to a runway incursion and violation. Here's what the spot looks like, charted and from a satellite:

© JEPPESEN, 1998, 2017. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reduced for illustrative purposes only.
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This widebody airline crew, with a combined 18,000 hours of flight time, experienced this confusion in the NASA ASRS Report below...

Approaching the hold short line for Runway 8R, I noticed that the Captain was still progressing at a somewhat rapid pace and advised him of the need to hold short at the first set of hold short lines just in front of us. The Captain replied that he had flown into and out of Miami numerous times and was confident that the second set of hold short lines, further in front of us, was the appropriate hold short line for Runway 8R.

As I saw no safety issue involved in proceeding to the second set of hold short lines, I deferred to the Captain's judgement, having flown into and out of Miami only a handful of times and never before having taken off on Runway 8R. While holding short of the improper hold short line, Miami tower cleared us for takeoff on 8R and subsequently added that the next time we taxi to runway 8R to make sure that we do not cross the 8R hold short line, which was behind us.

© JEPPESEN, 1998, 2017. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reduced for illustrative purposes only.

HS2: Rocky Mountain Metro Airport (KBJC)

Hot spots aren't just found at Class B Airports like Miami International. Hot Spot 2 at KBJC has a unique set of challenges as well. When approaching Runway 3 from Taxiway D, the hold short line is in front of Taxiway B. The hold short lines are significantly offset from the actual Runway threshold.

Let's say you just landed on Runway 12R. If you exit to the right on D2, then taxi northwest on D, you'll have to hold short of Runway 3 before you can turn right on Taxiway B. This is another reason the hot spot exists, to warn pilots about the unusual hold short line before turning onto Taxiway B, even though you won't actually cross Runway 3.

© JEPPESEN, 1998, 2017. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reduced for illustrative purposes only.

Smaller Airports May Not Have Charted Hot Spots

Many small airports around the country don't have charted hot spots, even when one is needed. In Crookston, MN (KCKN), if you taxi southwest out of the FBO, you'll encounter the intersection of Runway 35/17. Runway 35/17 is a grass runway that crosses both the main taxiway, the main paved runway, and another grass runway.

During taxi, Runway 35/17 will not stand out as clearly as a large paved runway. If you're not paying close attention to the painted markings on the ground or your airport diagram, you could easily enter Runway 35/17 without even realizing it.

© JEPPESEN, 1998, 2017. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reduced for illustrative purposes only.

Briefing The Hotspot

Before you begin taxiing, you should brief any hot spots along your taxi route. If the airport is too small to have designated hot spots, brief the points that could be confusing, or could lead to taxi problems.

How To Use Your Taxi Diagram

As you taxi, you should have a taxi diagram in front of you. Whether it's a paper chart, an EFB, or a taxi diagram on your MFD, have something up to improve your situational awareness. The best option is an electronic diagram that overlays your position onto the chart in real time.

If you're using an EFB, use the highlighter feature on your outline your taxi route and any hold short points. This tactic is a great way to make sure you're taxiing the right way.

© JEPPESEN, 1998, 2017. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reduced for illustrative purposes only.

Operating Within Hotspots

Hot spots are confusing, and you need to keep your eyes outside when you're operating in or near one. The more you prepare for hotspots before you start taxiing, the better off you'll be.

Swayne Martin

What's the most confusing hot spot you've experienced? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and an Embraer 145 First Officer for a large regional airline. He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota in 2018, holds a PIC Type Rating for Cessna Citation Jets (CE-525), and is a former pilot for Mokulele Airlines. He's the author of the articles, quizzes and lists you love to read every week. You can reach Swayne at swayne@boldmethod.com, and follow his flying adventures on his popular YouTube Channel..

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