Barbara Harper, ATP CFII MEI LRJet
Taxiing comes easy with proper directions – sometimes. Have you ever landed at an airport and forgot to familiarize yourself with the layout? There you are with this schematic in your lap trying to read the taxiways. Almost the same as reading library books sideways. Whoever thought of putting books at an angle so one had to tilt your head to one side, same way. Well, there are airports that need one’s attention. One would think that since the runway at the airport goes one way and therefore the taxiways do too. The designer of an airport should be forced to taxi an aircraft before finalizing the final draft of a taxiway. Do they realize that signage is not everything? Colors are standard yellow on the taxiway with contrasting signs with blue lights at night. But, there are many different colored taxiways…dark black, beige, brown, and many shades of gray and some with hints of green. What gives, no standardization?
The sun takes a toll on yellow lines. In the Southwest mid-morning one is unable to see taxi lines and sometimes even the white runway lines. Just think, paint makers alert yourself to making a lot of money if you could design a paint that is visible during these times. No one has so far. I often thought copper, a very tenacious metal and best conductor of heat and electricity, could be used instead of paint and possibly to light the taxiway at night. Now, maybe that is too easy a solution because airport management looks at something liquid to be painted for taxiways and runways.
In the same way, who decides the composition of a taxiway; engineers, airport management, construction crews? Is there a published recipe available? Why are some taxiways better than others? I bet at your home airport every aircraft owner knows exactly where all the cracks in the taxiways are located. Perhaps the Part 139 people (airport certification, movement area inspection) should develop their own signage with arrows pointing to the deteriorating asphalt. My suggestion for their signs would be to engage the hieroglyphic alphabet. The letter “S” in hieroglyphics is shaped like a walking cane. That should be sufficient notification that a crack is ahead on the taxiway and one might need crutches if crossed.
Meanwhile, what about these Hold Lines? The separation between the runway and the taxiway might be half the length of your aircraft when exiting. What does one do? You want to do the right thing but the Air Traffic Controller tells you they are unable to clear aircraft for takeoff because your tail is still on the hold line and might be considered an incursion. Then, the hard part comes. Where does one get off the main taxiway? Have you ever seen a sign “Gas Here” or “Restrooms,” even “Food.” Maverick and Goose would have the need for speed at this point. How come the FAA does not consider these necessities? Of course ground control knows everything and they will guide you to whatever is needed on the yellow brick road.