Welcome to Flightinfo.com

  • Register now and join the discussion
  • Friendliest aviation Ccmmunity on the web
  • Modern site for PC's, Phones, Tablets - no 3rd party apps required
  • Ask questions, help others, promote aviation
  • Share the passion for aviation
  • Invite everyone to Flightinfo.com and let's have fun

Right of Way

Welcome to Flightinfo.com

  • Register now and join the discussion
  • Modern secure site, no 3rd party apps required
  • Invite your friends
  • Share the passion of aviation
  • Friendliest aviation community on the web


May 27, 2002
Who's got the right of way in this instance. Aircaft 1 which has just crossed the outer marker (1300AGL) on a straight-in practice ILS approach in VMC. Or aircraft #2 that has just entered a downwind at 1500' AGL?
Aircraft 1 for two reasons.

First, Aircraft one is on final approach to landing which gives it right-of-way over other aircraft in flight or on the surface.

Secondly, it is at a lower altitude while approaching for landing and thus has the right of way.

Thank you, Knight who says "Ni!"

Remember that in VMC, all aircraft have the responsibility to "see and avoid" all other aircraft.
skeezer said:
Aircraft 1 for two reasons.

First, Aircraft one is on final approach to landing which gives it right-of-way over other aircraft in flight or on the surface.

Secondly, it is at a lower altitude while approaching for landing and thus has the right of way.


And Thirdly, the aircraft that ATC clears to land first!!! :D :D :D
"On Final"

I remember reading somewhere a while back about this subject. The jist of it was the definition of being "on final". The discussion was something like, an aircraft is not considered on final until they are aligned with the runway (obviously) and at the point where a typical base leg would intercept the extended centerline of the runway. I suppose that would be anywhere from 1/4 to 1 mile out, depending on the airplane.

If this interpretation was valid, the aircraft in the pattern would be in the right to "cut off" the straight-in final from 5 miles out. The AIM addresses the recommended methods of landing at uncontrolled airports and I always thought that the typical VFR pattern would have right-of-way over the straight-in guy.

Now, of course, this is also subject to common sense and decent courtesy. The bizjet on the straight in at 140 kts should expect the C150 to extend his/her downwind a bit to allow the expeditious arrival... but then again the non-turbine on the downwind would be at 1000' agl vs. 1500' so that would be a non-issue. :)

So, I guess whoever is at the lowest altitude while actually "on final" would have the right of way.

Ni!! :D

Good point PJ about the definition of on final. Does anybody know if the feds have made an official definition of "on final?"

However I still beleive that Aircraft 1 would have the right of way. If neither aircraft was on final then it reverts to the aircraft at the lowest altitude.

14 CFR 91.113 (g)..."When two or more aircraft are approaching an aiport for the purpose of landing, the aircraft at the lower altitude has the right-of-way, but it shall not take advantage of this rule to cut in front of another aircraft which is on final approach to land or to overtake that aircraft."

I interpret that as Aicraft 1 stills wins, and aircraft 2 can't drop its altitude below that of aircraft 1's in order to cut it off on final. However I have been known to be wrong on several occasions. :)

Good point Puddlejumper, that is more of where I was trying to take this discussion. The FAR's are as clear as mud on the subject. 91.113(g) states the person on final has the right of way, but WHERE does final start? Is it the FAF on an ILS, a 3 mile final visualy, or somebody on a 10 mile straight-in?

In my humble opinion, on the previous example Aircraft 1 has the right-of way due to being at a lower altitude 91.113(g).

Now how about we change the scenario a little bit and put both airplanes at 1500' AGL. Aircraft 1 is FAF inbound on a practice ILS, while aircraft 2 is still on downwind. Uncontrolled airspace, clear day. Who has the right-of-way now?

Let's keep this strictly in the legal sense, and keep the obvious (see-and avoid), courtesty (jets vs trainers), and advisory stuff (AIM) out.
I've appended a legal interpretation here, which is partially applicable to the question. In this case, if the aircraft in the pattern at the airport in question is flying a left hand pattern, the aircraft on final is to the pattern aircraft's right. If a converging conflict is at issue, then the aircraft one final has the right of way, in addition to the other issues already set forth by previous posters.

Note that the following interp is from 1981, and recodification of the FAR has occured since that time. Lest someone point out that currently the reference in 14 CFR has different enumeration; this we already know. The interpretation on the issue, however, still remains valid.

January 7, 1981

Boyd Scarborough, Esq.

Dear Mr. Scarborough:

In your letter of November 28, 1980, you requested an interpretation of Section 91.67(c) and (f) of the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs: 14 CRF 91.67). As you requested, we have interpreted the right-of-way rules of those sections as they apply to the following situation:

Aircraft A commenced a takeoff, under VFR, to the south from a private, noncontrolled airport with two intersecting, sod covered runways. Meanwhile, Aircraft B, also under VFR, had touched down heading east, on the intersection runway, slowed to approximately 15 MPH, and continued toward the intersection at that speed. The two aircraft collided on the ground at the intersection of the two runways.

You posed the following question: Which of the two aircraft, if either, enjoyed the right-of-way under FAR Section 91.67?

Section 91.67(c) states that when aircraft of the same category are converging at approximately the same altitude (except head on or nearly so), the aircraft to the other's right has the right-of-way. The applicability section of Subpart B of Part 91 (Section 91.61) states that the subpart "prescribes flight rules governing the operation of aircraft." Accordingly, Subpart B applies only to the operation of aircraft in flight, unless the wording of the individual section indicates otherwise. Since Section 91.67(c) references "altitude" and does not specifically mention operations on the surface, it is our opinion that paragraph (c) does not apply to the situation presented.

Our research has revealed no definition of "landing" in either the regulations or in the NTSB decisions. The NTSB has defined "takeoff" to include the entire takeoff roll, but there appears to be no reason to apply that definition to the landing situation. See Administrator vs Fostrey, 2NTSB 1756.

For the purposes of the specific example you posed, it is the opinion of this office that Aircraft B was "landing" only until the aircraft was on the ground and slowed to a speed such that the pilot would have been able to stop the aircraft, before he entered the intersection, through the application of normal braking. Any movement by Aircraft B after it had slowed to the speed defined above would be taxiing, not landing, and the right-of-way rules of Section 91.67(f) would no longer apply. We emphasize that this interpretation applies only to the specific example you presented, and only at noncontrolled airports.

We hope that this opinion will be useful to you. Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can be of any further assistance.


Chief, Airspace and Environmental Law Branch
Regulations and Enforcement Division
Office of the Chief Counsel
Thank you Avbug. That is an interesting interpretation. Of course the lawyers always cover there A$$ by including that "We emphasize that this interpretation applies only to the specific example you presented."

Avbug does bring out a good point though, if neither aircraft is on final, then 91.113(d) would probably be the ruling FAR and the aircraft on the right has the right of way. So in the example the aircraft on the practice ILS would have right-of-way.

Something else to think about (other than who has right of way, and where does final begin), does 91.126(b) have anything to do with the discussion? 91.126(b) states that unless otherwise authorized, or required an aircraft must make all turns to the left (or right in RHP).
I think the bottom line in this particular case is the overriding rule in most right of way situations; niether aircraft may take advantage of the rule to cut off the other aircraft. See and avoid is the rule, regardless of IFR and VFR. If traffic resoloution is necessary, it is the responsibility of both crews to ensure that the safety of the flight is maintained.

If the aircraft on final insists on a right of way to land and causes an unsafe condition by proximity to the other airpane, the aircraft on final may easily be liable for enforcement under 91.13, careless and reckless behavior. The same could be said the other way around, too.

It's a little like the Pedestrian and the semi truck. Yes, the pedestrian has the right of way, but who is going to insist on it?

For resoloution when converging, each aircraft should give way to the right, or pass to the right of the other. If the aircraft on final in this case arrives in the pattern at the same time as the other aircraft, at a similiar point in space, the aircraft on final should continue while the other airplane (the downwind airplane) extends to pass behind the ILS final airplane.

Both aircraft should be talking, and this should be decided in advance. Even if no discussion takes place, such as a lost comm situation, if both aircraft are able to see one another, then both aircraft should have a plan in mind to steer well clear. If it looks as though a conflict may develop, the final aircraft may elect to do an overhead entry, a 360, or something else to avoid the conflict. The downwind aircraft may wish to extend a bit to avoid a conflict. The responsibility of each aircraft is equal with respect to avoiding the conflict; the technical right of way is of little importantance in such an issue.

Latest resources