Home General Aircraft Right Of Way Rules: Important Guidelines In The Sky

Aircraft Right Of Way Rules: Important Guidelines In The Sky

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As aviation continues to evolve, it is crucial for pilots and enthusiasts to be familiar with aircraft right of way rules. These rules establish guidelines and responsibilities for pilots to ensure safe operations in the sky. In this article, we will delve into the key principles of aircraft right of way, providing a comprehensive overview of the rules and their significance in maintaining aviation safety.

1. General Right of Way Principles

When two aircraft are approaching head-on or at a 45-degree angle, both pilots must alter their course to the right. This means that the aircraft on the right has the right of way. It is imperative for pilots to be vigilant and maintain situational awareness to avoid potential collisions.

2. Aircraft on Final Approach

2.1. Landing Aircraft

An aircraft on final approach for landing has the right of way over other aircraft in flight. This ensures a safe landing without disruption or interference from other aircraft. Pilots approaching an active runway must yield to landing aircraft and avoid crossing their flight path.

2.2. Departing Aircraft

However, departing aircraft have the right of way over landing aircraft. Pilots taking off must exercise caution and maintain a proper separation distance from landing aircraft to avoid any potential conflicts.

3. Overtaking and Being Overtaken

When one aircraft is overtaking another, the aircraft being overtaken has the right of way. It is the responsibility of the overtaking aircraft to ensure a safe and sufficient separation distance, allowing the other aircraft to maintain its course without disruption. The overtaking aircraft should maneuver accordingly, ensuring a smooth and safe passing.

4. Converging Aircraft

When aircraft are converging at the same altitude, the aircraft on the right has the right of way. The pilot of the aircraft on the left should yield by altering their course to the right to avoid potential collisions. Vigilance and effective communication between pilots are essential in such scenarios.

5. Emergency Situations

In emergency situations, the aircraft in distress always has the right of way. Other aircraft must yield and provide necessary assistance, ensuring the safety of those in need. It is crucial for pilots to be aware of emergency signals and follow established protocols to minimize risks and respond effectively.

6. Communication and ATC Instructions

Aircraft right of way rules should always be followed, unless otherwise instructed by Air Traffic Control (ATC). ATC instructions take precedence over general right of way rules, as they are designed to maintain the orderly flow of air traffic. Pilots must be attentive to radio communications and promptly comply with ATC directives.


Understanding and adhering to aircraft right of way rules is paramount for every pilot. These rules establish a framework for safe and efficient operations in the sky, reducing the risk of accidents and ensuring the well-being of all aviation stakeholders. By following these guidelines and maintaining effective communication, pilots can contribute to a safer and harmonious aviation environment.