Aircraft taxiing on runway
22 Jan 2015

Answers from the Captain: Time on Taxiways


Airline safety seems to be a common topic in the news lately. There have been three major airline incidents in the last year and the whereabouts of one of those presumably downed airplanes has yet to be found. USA today recently interviewed an airline captain to get some answers to a few questions that the flying public may have.

The captain was first asked if aircraft taxi faster at airports with especially long runways, such as those at Denver International Airport. He indicated that taxiway length does not necessarily translate to faster taxiway speeds, but they very well might be going a little faster than normal as pilots try to avoid such issues as overheating the brakes by riding them.

He went on to say that although there is not any set taxiway speeds, around 20 knots is generally to be considered the norm if there are no other obstacles or aircraft nearby.

When the captain was asked if there were limits to the speed that an aircraft can taxi at, he noted that for 747 Aircraft there were, but not for any others that he was aware of. He also believes that there is no difference in taxi speeds between the USA and other countries such as Germany.

The captain also explained that when an aircraft moves its rudders, ailerons, spoilers, and elevators before takeoff, it was simply a means of ensuring they are all working properly.

When asked about why radio controllers changed the phrase “Taxi into position and hold” to “Line up and wait, he stated it was for uniformity purposes. Only American airports used the first phrase and by changing it they could avoid confusion when American pilots fly internationally.