More attention needed when taxiing


We tend to focus most of our time and attention on flying an aircraft. We should probably pay a little more attention when taxiing the aircraft.

The amateur-built Wagaero Cuby Sport Trainer aircraft was taxiing when its propeller struck the wing of a parked Cessna 172S.

The Cessna 172A taxiing to the ramp after landing struck the propeller of a parked Beech V35B with its left wing causing minor damage to the leading edge of the wing. 

The Cessna 172 aircraft was taxiing for departure when it scraped its wing along a fence at the airport construction site.

The pilot of a Piper 28 was beginning his taxi from a line of aircraft when a tow vehicle came around the parked aircraft to the left and passed very close in front of him. Sudden braking was required.

The Cessna C172 was taxiing off Runway 31 with gusting winds from the North. Part way down the taxiway a large gust came from the Northwest and picked up the aircraft tail and left wing and turned the aircraft upside down onto the South edge of the taxiway.

A gust of wind lifted the tail of a DHC 3 causing one propeller to strike a snowdrift.

A Homebuilt Baldwin (tail dragger) was taxiing in a 20 knot wind when the tail started to swing. The swing caused the aircraft to flip over onto its back.

The Vans RV9 reported hitting FOD on Runway 11. A runway check determined that a tow bar was on the runway. The tow bar belonged to the aircraft.

The Cessna 172 was taxiing for take-off when authorized to go behind a Boeing 777 that was stopped on the left side of the holding bay with the jet engines at idle. As the Cessna taxied behind the Boeing 777, its left wing and tail were lifted up so that the propeller and right wing struck the ground before the aircraft returned to its normal position. The right wing, engine cowl, and propeller were damaged.

The Beech Duchess 76 was taxiing for departure at a private grass strip when both props hit the ground.

The pilot of the Cessna C210 was relocating his aircraft to a small aircraft grass parking area when his nose wheel went into a depression in the ground, and the propeller struck the ground. All 3 propeller blades were damaged.

The Cessna 172M aircraft struck a taxiway light while exiting the runway at night.

The Cuby Sport Trainer and the first two C-172 aircraft ran into stationary objects. Were they distracted? Were they conducting pre-take-off or post landing checks?

Ramps can be busy places. Vehicles and people can be anywhere and may not be paying much attention. Defensive taxiing may prevent a dent. 

Taxiing in strong winds always requires care, even for larger aircraft such as a DC 3. Controls must be placed so as to reduce the chance of an upset, especially when taxiing a tail dragger. Those of us who fly tricycle gear aircraft like the C-172 mentioned above occasionally get complacent when taxiing in windy conditions.

When taxiing into wind, steer into the wind with the ailerons and hold the elevators neutral. When taxiing away from the wind, steer away from the wind with the ailerons and push full forward on the control yoke (tricycle gear). The control column must always be held fully aft with tail draggers to pin the tail. As the aircraft makes turns, the controls must be moved to maintain the correct control inputs. We must not relax until the aircraft is stopped and tied down or hangared.

Distraction likely caused the RV9 pilot to forget to remove his tow bar before taxiing. He was lucky that he didn’t get airborne with it still attached.

Large aircraft create a lot of wake turbulence, even at idle. Taxiing behind one probably should be avoided. If that is not possible, they should be given a large berth. It is also wise to make radio contact directly or through the ground controller to warn the pilots of the large aircraft that we are manoeuvring behind them so that they don’t add power when we are.

When we intend to taxi on unprepared surfaces, it is wise to inspect the ground for holes and depressions to avoid an incident like the Beech Dutchess or Cessna 210. Grass can hide uneven surfaces and foreign objects.

Taxiing at night requires more care than during the day. Use the taxi light, and taxi slowly. Do not use the landing light for taxi. It shines too far ahead and may affect the night vision of other pilots on the ground. It may also affect the night vision and distract pilots of aircraft on final approach if you are taxiing near a runway.

Use the taxiway lights to help gauge your speed on the ground. At night, lighted objects such as taxiway and obstruction lights are closer than they appear. Taxiing too fast will not allow adequate stopping time in dim light conditions.

Because objects are closer than they appear at night, allow more clearance on each side of the aircraft. While taxiing very slowly, the reflection of your position lights off other objects will assist in judging distance from other objects, and in judging your speed.

Some aprons are lighted, or partly lighted, by floodlights. These lights throw shadows, which may conceal obstructions.

Performing checks during taxi at night is not a good idea. We must keep our eyes outside the cockpit.

Taxiing at any airport requires attention. Taxiing at an unfamiliar airport can be a real challenge. We can ask a Tower Controller or an FSS specialist for progressive taxi instructions, or for information about an uncertain portion of the airport.

Whenever we feel rushed or our workload is high we make mistakes. Taxiing in congested areas, at busy airports and at night increases the chance of making those mistakes.

Taxiing is part of any flight. The flight begins when we start to taxi and is not over until we have parked the aircraft.

Dale Nielsen is an ex-Armed Forces pilot and aerial photography pilot. He lives in Abbotsford, B.C., and currently flies medevacs from Victoria in a Lear 25. Nielsen is also the author of seven flight training manuals published by Canuck West Holdings.

Got an aviation safety story to tell? Dale Nielsen would like to hear from pilots who have educational aviation experiences to relate. Excerpts from these stories will be used in upcoming safety articles. Dale can be contacted via e-mail: