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Collision Avoidance & Runway Incursions (Private Pilot)

Collision Avoidance

Under FAR Part 91 there are a few enhanced safety of flight items that have been established, such as right-of-way rules, minimum safe altitudes and VFR cruising altitudes. As a safe pilot, it is always a good idea to continuously scan for other traffic. A good way to scan the area for other air traffic is to scan at 10⁰ intervals and hold each spot of about 1 second.

Aircraft have blind spots, if flying a high wing aircraft should raise the wing to check for traffic prior to making a turn. Same goes for low winged aircraft, lower the wing in the intended direction of the turn.


Controlled Flight into Terrain

The FAA defines Controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) as the unintentional collision into terrain, such as; mountains, ground, water, or even an obstacle, while the aircraft in under positive control.

Controlled flight into terrain accounts for 17 percent of all general aviation (GA) accidents occurred during instrument meteorological conditions (IMC). CFIT covers mainly IFR pilots, visual flight rules (VFR) pilots are effected by CFIT, flying in below minimum visibility, and into IMC conditions.


Pilot Deviation

A deviation is when the action of a pilot that result in a violation of a FAR. If you have a pilot deviation on your record it follows you forever. When ATC gives a pilot a phone number to call, is receiving a pilot deviation.


Runway Incursion

So what is a runway incursion? The FAA states It is “any occurrence in the airport runway environment involving an aircraft, vehicle, person, or object on the ground that creates a collision hazard or results in a loss of required separation with an aircraft taking off, intending to take off, landing, or intending to land.” This also covers taxiways as well, with the exception of aircraft taking off or landing. Some example of runway or taxiway incursions are:

  • Crossing a runway hold marking with clearance from ATC, or taking off and or landing with clearance.

  • Taxiing on to a runway, in front of a landing aircraft. 

How to avoid runway and taxiway incursions?

  • At towered airports it is mandatory to read back all runway crossing and or “hold short” instructions.

  • Write down complex taxi instructions, at unfamiliar airports.

  • Always carry and refer to an airport diagram, while taxiing.

  • Always check for traffic before crossing runways and taxiways.

Runway Confusion:

Runway confusion is a part of runway incursions, it is the unintentional taking off or landing on the wrong runway or even a taxiway. This can happen at airports that are very complex, have close runway thresholds, or even the use of a runway as a taxiway.

Hot Spots:

Hot spots are locations on the airport where, there is a history of potential risk of an aircraft collision or runway, even taxiway incursion. These hot spots should have heightened attention by pilots during taxi. During the preflight or just before taxi, it is recommend that the pilot take a close look at and review the hotspots on the airport diagram.

All hot spots a circled and have a number associated with it. Reference the numbers of the hot spots to see what the hazards are of that area, in section 5 of the Chart Supplement or on the ForeFlight app. Even online at

Progressive Taxi:

Per FAR Part 91.123, pilots are required to follow all ATC instructions and clearances. Progressive taxi is when ATC follows you visually during taxi, and ATC provides a step by step instructions. These can be requested at unfamiliar controlled airports.

There is nothing wrong with telling a controller immediately, you are “UNABLE”, to safely comply with ATC instructions.



The right-of-way rules have been set into place to ensure that all aircraft in the proximity of another aircraft in visual meteorological conditions (VMC), understand which aircraft has the right-of-way to avoid collisions. Another part that the FAA has included is the “See and Avoid” method, to avoid collisions when weather condition permit, especially when flying in airspace where aircraft are not receiving ATC instructions, always maintain vigilance.

The right-or-way rules are known internationally and are described in the International Civil Aeronautical Organization (ICAO) Annex 2, Rules of the Air section. The FAA has incorporated the ICAO rules, along with the “See and Avoid” into FAR Part 91.113.

  • Distress - Any aircraft that is in a distress situation has the right-of-way over any other aircraft.

  • Airships/Balloons - Any airship has the right-of-way over slower moving powered parachutes, rotorcraft. Balloons have the right-of-way over everyone.

  • Head-on - If two aircraft are converging at the same altitude, the aircraft to the other’s right has right-of-way. If two aircraft are head on, they should both alter course to the right to avoid having a head on collision.

  • Overtaking - an aircraft in flight, should be to the right and stay well clear of the slower moving aircraft.

  • Landing - When multiple aircraft are approaching an airport, intended for landing the aircraft that is at the lower altitude has the right-of-way. When an aircraft is on final approach to land, they have right-of-way over other aircraft in flight or on the surface.

Remember to practice good scanning, especially while on approach to the traffic pattern at an airport. Also, scan for traffic prior to turning final, both on the runway, and coming the opposite direction. Also, scan the runway and taxiways at both ends, for aircraft, and note there movement. If you see an aircraft moving onto the runway, while you are on final causing a runway incursion, immediately and safely “Go Around!”



Private Pilot ACS PA.l.H.K4

PHAK FAA-H-8083-25 (Ch. 14)

FAR 91.123


AC 61-134

AC 90-48

ICAO Annex 2, “Rules of the Air”, Section 3.2

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