ForeFlight Mobile and Runway Incursions

Runway incursions while taxiing are apparently still a big problem with all pilots, from student to ATPs. The FAA has attempted to reduce runway incursions with new phraseology over the past year, introducing terms such as “line up and wait”, the ICAO term for “position and hold” when clearing an aircraft onto a runway for departure.

The FAA also requires that controllers issue a specific crossing clearance at each runway, even if the runway being crossed is not active at the time. ATC is no longer permitted to clear us to a runway in a single clearance if that taxi clearance requires crossing one or more runways along the route. The clearance must be broken down into separate  transmisions between Ground Control and the pilot. Unless the pilot is specifically cleared across a runway, he or she is expected to hold short of that runway, or risk an incursion.

A few days ago I had a chance to fly the Bonanza with ForeFlight Mobile HD on my iPad with its latest update; version 4.7 with the Runway Proximity Advisor.

While you are taxiing, this ForeFlight update utilizes the GPS, either internal to the iPad, or an external GPS unit, to position your aircraft in relation to known runway intersections at airports around the country.

With this upgrade, ForeFlight users will get an automatic on screen pop-up and aural warning whenever they are approaching a runway, giving the pilot an additional heads-up when taxiing at unfamiliar airports, helping to prevent runway incursions.

On my iPad and iPhone I could easily hear the aural warnings over the engine noise, wearing Bose X noise canceling headsets. The bluetooth feature of ForeFlight mobile can also channel these aural warnings directly to bluetooth enabled headsets.

Below you can follow my progress using the little blue icon as I taxi from the GA ramp at Leesburg, FL (KLEE) to RW 03 for departure.

In the first screen grab, I am southeast bound on taxiway Alpha, approaching RWY 03-21, where I have been instructed to hold short for landing traffic on 03:

In this screen below you can see that I have been cleared across RWY 3-21 and made a right turn on taxiway Kilo. The pop up and aural warning tells me that I am approaching RWY 13-31.  I hold here for ATC clearance across 13-31:

In this next screen, I have been cleared southwest onto taxiway Kilo, across 13-31 and continue towards RWY 03. ForeFlight has advised me I have entered RWY 13-31: 

In this last screen, I have been cleared onto the RWY 03 for departure and ForeFlight has advised me I have entered an active runway:

Runway Proximity Advisor is not idiot proof. Just as a few pilots have landed retract aircraft gear-up while ignoring a gear warning horn, this latest ForeFlight feature will not prevent an incursion if your head is elsewhere. While you can think of this feature as a way to increase your situational awareness, if you are not paying attention you will still have an incursion.

Where I find this feature useful is at unfamiliar airports, especially larger ones where all you see at night is a sea of blue taxi lights. Between the geo-referencing feature and the Runway Proximity Adviser, you should be able to avoid the dreaded “Call the tower, possible pilot deviation” radio call.

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