“Heads up, eyes out” a popular slang used to remind pilots to be alert and to always look around while taxiing at an airport from the ramp to the runway or vice versa. Safety in aviation is extremely important and without an alert pilot in the cockpit it is quite easy to get into a runway incursion. A runway incursion is any occurrence at an airport that involves any aircraft, person or vehicle that causes a collision hazard or a loss of separation with aircrafts taking off, landing or intending to land. Runway Incursions are not rare incidents in the United States as there are approximately 1200 runway incursions a year in the United States. While there are many conditions that can lead to a runway incursion (such as poor weather conditions) based on FAA records more than 60% of runway incursions are caused by pilot deviations and many of these incursions occur in general aviation operations.
Many runway incursions especially during aviation training, occurs due to a lack of situational awareness, lack of knowledge of airport signs and markings, and a lack of airport familiarity. It is important to maintain a good situational awareness while taxiing at airports. Knowing where you are at an airport and being aware of the other aircrafts operating around you can reduce the risk of getting into an incident. Before flying, a pilot should research the destination airport to become familiar with the taxiways and airport procedures. Some airports can have really confusing taxiways which makes pilots more susceptible to making mistakes. The use of Airport/Facility directory is a great way to get to know the features of an airport. Airport diagrams are also located in the A/FD can also help you to plan safe taxi operations and anticipated taxi routes. However, do not take for granted that the anticipated taxi route will be the same taxi route that ATC will give you. Be vigilant! Hotspots are also located on airport diagrams and they are used to warn pilots of areas that typically have a complex taxiway/taxiway intersection or taxiway/runway intersection. Being aware of airport hotspots in flight planning can also allow pilots to be more attentive when approaching these areas.
Remember, safety comes first! And as the clichéd idiom states “It is better to be safe, than to be sorry.”