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Airport Operations FAQ – Driving on the AOA

I get a lot of questions from folks about driving at the Airport.

Driving lights and sirens on roadways is dangerous, but at least the basic rules apply.  Cars drive on the right and are encouraged to yield to the red light and siren.  We are allowed to speed along and go around folks as needed.

Not so on the Airfield Operating Area (AOA).

At my Airport we are given the rare privilege of being allowed to operate not only in the marked cart road area you see all the baggage trucks driving in, but we can wander almost anywhere we need to.  This is an enormous responsibility and requires extreme caution when moving around giant airplanes.

And it isn’t just a safety issue, we need to ensure no aircraft are delayed or even made to slow down.

If you do make a plane slow down you lose your airport access badge.  Can’t work without a badge.

So what is it like driving around with all those airplanes?

Imagine you are driving your kid’s powerwheels car through a parking lot.  As you are, cars and trucks are pulling into and out of parking spots and cruising the lanes.  There is a radio channel where they all talk to each other and you have to monitor it while driving along.  Add to that the control channel and watching for stray bags in the roadway and it is very easy to get distracted and find yourself suddenly unsure of what may be coming around the next turn.

As you cruise the parking lot keep in mind that if any of the cars have to slow down you’re reassigned.


The longer you are on the airfield the easier it is to predict where the planes are coming from and going to.  Pulling onto taxiway Alpha from spot 1, for example, I know that the United 757 coming towards me is headed to Runway 1 left and won’t turn in front of me suddenly, but the Jet Blue behind them will.  I need to either punch it across or wait.  Then I hear on the ground channel “Jetblue, go around the United 75 at hotel, bravo, alpha to the ramp”  Now I know the Jet Blue is going around the United 75, but why is the United stopping?  Ah, there is a ground crew at the Southwest flight pulling out of gate 31 onto Alpha infront of the United.  I’ll have to wait.


And that’s what it is like driving at the Airport.

When a call is street side and we get to do the old fashioned red light and siren it is a nice change of pace.

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One Comment

  1. Andy July 26, 2015 10:30 pm

    That sounds rather complicated. Glad I only have partial access to our AOA, and have to get tower clearance since I cross a runway end.

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