Line Up and Wait

Most pilots know that way back in 2010 the FAA retired the phrase “Position and Hold”. Instead “Line Up and Wait” came into usage, indicated to an aircraft at a towered field that they are to taxi onto the runway, line up for departure, and then wait until takeoff clearance is given.

This change gets the US phraseology “lined up” with the rest of the world (bad pun, I know).

Line Up and Wait for Non-Towered fields

It is not uncommon at a non-towered field to hear a pilot use the “Position and Hold” or “Line Up and Wait” phraseology to indicate that they are taxiing onto the runway.

Sometimes this is done as another aircraft is departing, and sometimes it is used just to indicate that the aircraft will pause for a moment before departure. I will give these pilots some credit because this, at least, does give a clear picture of the pilot’s intention to stop on the runway before departing.

However, this phraseology is not meant for non-towered airports….for good reason.

Did you know that ATC will not issue “Line Up and Wait” if they can’t see the departure point (with a few exceptions)?

By taxiing into position at a non-towered field you are putting your aircraft into a vulnerable position. You can’t see behind you very well and an aircraft could be landing right where you are parked. The best solution here is to be patient for one more minute and wait until it is your turn to depart.

It can be tempting, if the pattern is full, to call a “Line Up and Wait” as a landing aircraft passes you. This way you are stepping into line for departure. But again, you are putting your fate into the hands of the landing traffic who could be distracted. Furthermore, there is no requirement for radio communications at a non-towered field so a landing aircraft might not even announce. Please don’t “Line Up and Wait”.

Remember that pulling onto the runway (at a non-towered field) while another aircraft is still on that same runway is a runway incursion!

A Better Solution

Tired of waiting for the same 4 aircraft to let you into the pattern? Every time one takes off the next one is on final for a touch-and-go. This can be frustrating but don’t “Line Up and Wait”. Instead, communicate! Try a polite: “Cessna 12345, this is Cessna 54321 on Taxiway Alpha, do you mind extending downwind a little bit so we can depart runway 29?”

You will usually get a “Yes” and have plenty of time to takeoff….but if not, just try another plane. It’s very unlikely you will get 4 grumpy pilots!

The other reason people use “Line Up and Wait” is to indicate that they will be delayed in their departure once they are on the runway. The delay can be caused by a desire to conduct a short-field takeoff and run the engine up or to set the heading bug to runway heading.

However, I would argue that these common procedural tasks can all be conducted easily within a few seconds, and you should not even consider that a delay because it adds confusion for other pilots in the pattern. A pilot on downwind might begin extending their downwind when they are abeam even though you would have been off the ground before they turned final.

In these cases, I recommend an ordinary departure announcement. It is clear and well understood, and it does not leave you in a vulnerable position.