Dick’s Follies – Part 2 – Taxiway Shmaxiway

In our last story about Dick, we found him ‘fast-taxiing‘ (read: flying) down the runway, to his taxiway. As we noted in that case, the tower controller was not amused, but as usual, Dick got off with nothing more than a verbal barb or two from the guys in the tower. In our next case of Dick’s follies, we’ll explore a bad case of “Get there-itus,” and how that led to him unintentionally teaching a student pilot the wrong thing to do.

THE SET UP — Strong crosswinds at 90 degrees to the north-south runway. The crosswinds were well over 30 knots, which was, as you would expect, well beyond the stated crosswind capability of Dick’s aircraft. The winds were also beyond the crosswind capability of the Cessna 152, running behind Dick’s plane on the taxiway, manned by a student pilot.

I WONDER… Dick sat and pondered his situation. If he taxied out, he might be able to pull it up and get control before the winds pushed him off the runway, but if anything went wrong, he would be at risk of wrecking his plane. He pondered and pondered, and then developed an innovative solution … that was also completely illegal!

A BAD DECISION — Rather than wait for a day more suitable to flight, Dick chose to use the east-west taxiway as a runway. The taxiway was short, in the area of 500 to 700 feet before it hit the 100-foot wide runway, giving Dick an “effective runway” of 600 to 800 feet. With a 30-knot headwind, and a sound engine, Dick pushed the throttle to the firewall and started on his journey.

THE ENGINE ROARED TO FULL POWER, and the plane gathered speed as Dick hurtled (-30kts ground speed) down the taxiway. Luck was with Dick today, as his plane lifted off at the edge of the runway, which allowed him to turn the plane… and clear the rising terrain and trees on the west edge of the field.

Feeling smug with his illegal success, Dick continued to climb out, and set course for his destination. Imagine his surprise when he saw the 152 on the taxiway behind him, follow his illegal act and take off on the taxiway! His goofy and illegal act became even scarier when the 152 pilot keyed his mic and said, “Hey, thanks, I’m a student pilot, and until you did that, I was afraid I was going to be stranded here until the winds died down.”

It is not legal to use a taxiway for takeoff or landing operations — and for many good reasons. Had either pilot experienced engine problems, there was not sufficient “runway” to allow them to safely land their planes. They would have gone off the side of the regular runway, and into a farmer’s field, or worse yet, collided with terrain and trees on the west side of the field.

If someone had decided to make a low pass on the runway, he could have had quite a sight in his window — another aircraft, directly in his line of flight. Avoiding another plane while you are low and slow is a complicated matter, and if you don’t manage the energy right, you’ll crash.

Worse yet, pilots that are landing typically aren’t expecting someone to come at them at flight speed from the taxiway. This sets them up in a bad situation, since they can be surprised while landing, which is the last place you want or need a surprise.

DON’T BE LIKE DICK. Use taxiways for what they were intended for. If the winds are so strong that you can’t use the runway, STAY ON THE GROUND. Getting away with something doesn’t make you a good pilot; it makes you a bad example. You can never tell if an impressionable student just watched your little trick, and whether they will try it themselves without the same success.