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Ask the Pilot

At airports with parallel runways, why don’t planes take off and land at the same time on those runways?


pilotQ: At airports with parallel runways, why don’t planes take off and land at the same time on those runways?

A: Air Traffic Control (ATC) keeps passengers safe by separating airplanes from one another. Many airports have several runways, and their layout safely allows simultaneous takeoffs and landings to accommodate increasing air traffic demand. If parallel runway centerlines are at least 4,300 feet apart, airplanes may, and often do, take off and land simultaneously in the same direction. If they are less than 4,300 feet apart, more restrictive ATC procedures apply. These procedures include staggering aircraft on approach to avoid wake turbulence from other aircraft in close proximity. 

Safety precautions are in place to avoid conflict with any aircraft taking off simultaneously from a parallel runway. When you look out your airplane window, you may spot another airplane that appears close. Be assured that your pilots and ATC are aware of the other airplane and that ATC procedures (usually a turn to a heading or flying an assigned departure route) are in place to make such operations safe.

Captain Bill Konrad is United’s Newark chief pilot.​

You can write to United’s chief pilots by addressing askthepilot@united.com

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