Last week I flew to Naples, FL (KAPF) from my home base. Because it’s the beginning of snowbird season, the airspace and ramp were quite busy with a mix of corporate jets and 172’s. Not a big deal, but everyone needs to bring their “A” game when operating there.
Flight conditions were excellent VFR, and my Bonanza was number two for the runway. I had been cleared for a visual approach and landing on RWY 14, following a single-engine Cessna 172.
As I passed over the approach end of RWY 14, there were two departures waiting to get out, and other aircraft in the pattern waiting to land. After touchdown, the Local Controller (tower) told me to “keep it rolling” down the runway to Taxiway Alpha, for my turn-off. In the same breath, he cleared another aircraft to depart 14.
When I exited the runway, I pulled just beyond the Taxiway Alpha hold line, as required by ATC, and came to a complete stop. After clearing, I contacted Naples Ground, and her first snippy words back to me were “Bonanza, you just cut off that Cessna 172 to your left!” I glanced over and sure enough, there was a 172 less than fifty feet away, entering the same intersection from taxiway Bravo. This was the very 172 that I had followed in on the approach, but he had made an earlier turn-off, and was now southbound on Bravo.
Here is the issue: When you are clearing an active runway, unless the controller gives you specific instructions otherwise, you must fully exit the runway environment, and taxi beyond the yellow dashed hold short lines. This includes the tail of the aircraft. When Ground busted my chops for cutting off the taxiing Cessna 172, I replied that I was required to clear the runway.
Well, as you can see from the Google Earth photo below, there is no way to completely clear the runway at the taxiway Alpha hold line without intruding into taxiway Bravo. The bigger the aircraft involved, the bigger the problem.
Apparently, Local did not communicate my presence with Ground, because there should have been some coordination as to which aircraft had the right of way at this very congested intersection.
After sorting things out with Ground, the 172 followed me to the GA ramp and shut down next to me. To my surprise, two FAA examiners then exited the 172.
One of the examiners walked over, flashed his FAA badge and then requested my license and medical. This was my first ramp check in 18 years of flying, but it turned out to be no big deal. The process was not unpleasant and took no more than a minute or two. And oddly, there was no mention of the intersection incident.
Later, I walked up to the FAA guys inside the FBO and apologized that I had not seen them, and was simply trying to get clear of the runway. Fortunately they had spotted me and stopped their aircraft in time to avoid bending any metal. They were very nice about it and considered it a non-issue.
You have to visualize a bit from the pictures below, but I entered Taxiway Alpha from the south west, at the bottom of the picture. The 172 was southbound from the 5/23 markings on Taxiway Bravo. Due to poor airport design, fully clearing runway 14 and entering Taxiway A causes you intrude into Taxiway Bravo.
This whole incident itself was rather minor, but it could have had a different outcome depending on the attitude of the people in the tower, and the FAA examiners in the Cessna. Because of that, I did a little research on what is expected at controlled airports when landing and clearing a runway.
Here are the rules according to the Airman’s Information Manual:
4−3−20. Exiting the Runway After Landing
The following procedures must be followed after landing and reaching taxi speed.
a. Exit the runway without delay at the first available taxiway or on a taxiway as instructed by ATC. Pilots shall not exit the landing runway onto another runway unless authorized by ATC. At airports with an operating control tower, pilots should not stop or reverse course on the runway without first obtaining ATC approval.
b. Taxi clear of the runway unless otherwise directed by ATC. An aircraft is considered clear of the runway when all parts of the aircraft are past the runway edge and there are no restrictions to its continued movement beyond the runway holding
position markings. In the absence of ATC instructions, the pilot is expected to taxi clear of the landing runway by taxiing beyond the runway holding position markings associated with the landing runway, even if that requires the aircraft to protrude into or cross another taxiway or ramp area. Once all parts of the aircraft have crossed the runway holding position markings, the pilot must hold unless further instructions have been issued by ATC.
c. Immediately change to ground control frequency when advised by the tower and obtain a taxi clearance.
1. The tower will issue instructions required to resolve any potential conflictions with other ground traffic prior to advising the pilot to contact ground control.
I complied with all of the items above referenced in 4-3-20. The Local Controller did not comply with NOTE 1, since I was not advised of any potential conflicts as I exited the runway. Ground should have held the parallel traffic, allowing us to clear.
Was I ramp checked as a result of confusion in the tower? Or was I just “lucky”? With a GA ramp full of aircraft, I was the only pilot that got checked. I’ll let you be the judge. In the meantime, I have filed an ASRS NASA form letting the FAA know that some better coordination with ATC at this airport would be welcome.
Finally as PIC, know the rules and regulations so you can defend yourself, and don’t let ATC bully you because of their mistakes.