Changing takeoff/landing direction


On a recent flight back to ATL, after there were some tornadoes in the area, we landed the opposite way that we usually do. My roommate and I were discussing this on the plane, and we couldn’t agree whether or not it takes a full ground stop to change landing direction, or not. My vote was no, his was yes. He’s usually right. I’d love to prove him wrong.


You are right. Most of the time a runway swap can occur with minimal delay, they start routing aircraft towards the new runway while others are landing the opposite way. They leave a little window of error in there, sure, but a complete stop would throw everything out of whack in a hurry.


Do the pilots use mirrors or do they have cameras in the tail now?


They have cameras in the tails now:


Generally, runway changes are coordinated between the Tower and Approach/Departure a few minutes in advance. Tower advises which aircraft is last to depart on the old direction, and Approach advises which is last to land. Aircraft would then start taxiing down to the new runway, and aircraft would start getting vectored around. They try to time it so you don’t get much of a delay. Obviously, there has to be some buffer, as you generally get opposite direction traffic during that time.

In an ideal situation, these switches would occur during lulls in the traffic, so there would only be a plane or two to deal with. However, ideal situations rarely happen, and very often, Center will hold the planes for a few minutes to let Approach sort it all out, as they’d have planes going every which way.



Thanks guys!! That helps me out, and answers the question. Might I say, I just love this site!


I don’t think they got it.

…and it wasn’t funny.


There was supposed to be humor in my post also but it really wasn’t funny either.


I get it…

It’s along the Lines of the Old BackCourse Landing Joke…Of…why can’t we just land the Plane Backwards??


Or the jokes that simpletons coughwazzucough make about flying the Piaggio with it’s “backwards” props.

(I still say that they’re on the right way. All of the other PT6s are backwards…air enters in the back and exhausts out the front? yeah that makes sence… :unamused: )


Some time ago I had a controller tell me that the major airports, like ATL, they start co-ordinating as much as 45 minutes in advance. The Center sectors out around 250 miles then start building a hole in the arrivals train. As DeltaMike172 says, as the scheduled changeover time approaches there may be a few short delays for departing aircraft at the gate but they try to have several aircraft ready to go when the last plane lands going in the original direction.

I was sitting at LAX once waiting for passengers, they were using runways 24/25 but with a slight tailwind. I think it was a Finnair DC-10 called for his clearance and a confirmation of the wind. When a slight tailwind was confirmed he apologized like crazy but said we need to depart on 7R or 7L due to the wind. The clearance delivery controller asked how long before he would be ready to taxi…about 15 minutes later he taxied out, waited no more than 3 or 4 minutes and took off. Seconds later aircraft were taking off on 25L/R and within 3 or 4 minutes aircraft were landing to the west again.
Something like that must have been a monumental co-ordination exercise.



The engines are facing the right direction - it’s the airframe that is backwards!


Hmmm…funny…I’ve never seen a catfish swim backwards…