Right of Way


  • When weather conditions permit, regardless of whether an operation is conducted under IFR or VFR, vigilance shall be maintained by each person operating an aircraft so as to see-and-avoid other aircraft
  • When a rule of this section gives another aircraft the right-of-way, the pilot shall give way to that aircraft and may not pass over, under, or ahead of it unless well clear
    • Think: BIG "R" (BGAAR)
      1. Balloons
      2. Gliders
      3. Airship
      4. Airplanes/Rotor-craft
  • An aircraft towing or refueling other aircraft has the right-of-way over all other engine-driven aircraft

In Distress:

  • An aircraft in distress has the right-of-way over all other traffic

Converging Aircraft:

  • When aircraft of the same category are converging at approximately the same altitude, the aircraft to the others right has the right of way
  • If the aircraft are of different categories, refer to the BGAAR list above for right of way precedence
  • Right Of Way Rules - Converging Aircraft
    Converging Aircraft

Approaching head-on:

  • When approaching head-on or near head-on each pilot shall alter course to the right
  • Right Of Way Rules - Approaching Head-on
    Approaching Head-on


  • The aircraft that is being overtaken has the right of way
  • Each pilot of an overtaking aircraft shall alter course to the right to pass well clear [Figure 3]
  • Right Of Way Rules - Overtaking Another Aircraft
    Overtaking Another Aircraft


  • Aircraft, while on final to land or while landing have the right of way
    • They shall not take advantage of this rule to force an aircraft off the runway surface which has already landed and is attempting to make way for an aircraft on final approach
  • When two or more aircraft are on final approach, the lowest aircraft has the right of way
    • Not to be taken advantage of to cut in front of or overtake another aircraft
  • When an aircraft is on a runway you are approaching then it can become more complicated
    • Under strict separation criteria you are able to land
    • You can verify separation requirements from ATC but the PIC must never be afraid of executing a go-around when the situation becomes uncomfortable
  • Note that VFR/IFR has no impact on having priority over another

Water Operations:

  • Each person operating an aircraft on the water shall, insofar as possible, keep clear of all vessels and avoid impeding their navigation and shall give way to any vessel or other aircraft that is given the right-of-way by any rule of 91.115
  • When aircraft or aircraft and vessel, approach so as to involve risk of collision, each shall proceed with careful regard to existing circumstances including limitations of the respective craft

Single and Formations of Aircraft:

  • When a single aircraft is converging with an aircraft formation at approximately the same altitude (except head-on, or nearly so), the formation flight has the right of way
  • In other cases, the formation shall be considered as a single aircraft and the right-of-way rules of reference (d), subpart 91.113 apply

Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems:

  • Each small unmanned aircraft must yield the right of way to all aircraft, airborne vehicles, and launch and reentry vehicles
    • Yielding the right of way means that the small unmanned aircraft must give way to the aircraft or vehicle and may not pass over, under, or ahead of it unless well clear
  • No person may operate a small unmanned aircraft so close to another aircraft as to create a collision hazard


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