Runway safety and stop bars—contributing to enhanced safety


A number of Australian major airports have installed stop bars at their runways, as a measure to prevent a runway incursion. Stop bars are a series of unidirectional red lights embedded in the pavement at right angles to the taxiway centreline, at the associated runway holding position.

Stop bars are intended to provide additional protection of runway/taxiway intersections and reduce runway incursions by:

  • enhancing visibility of holding points
  • reinforcing the control of aircraft and vehicles in the vicinity of holding points
  • increasing the defence against controller error in aircraft or vehicle identification.

It is important for pilots, who operate at these airports where stop bars are in use, know how to utilise them to ensure their effectiveness in preventing a runway incursion.

Stop at the red light

Pilots must comply with the following when stop bars are in operation:

  • never cross an illuminated stop bar
  • only proceed past a stop bar when ATC provides the appropriate verbal instruction AND the stop bar light is extinguished.

It is recommended practice to:

  • ensure at least one member of the crew is able to sight the stop bars
  • check stop bars every time before entering or crossing a runway
  • check stop bars when reading back ATC clearance to enter the runway.

What if ATC give a clearance but the stop bar is still illuminated?

Pilots must remain behind an illuminated stop bar until it is extinguished.

If you have been issued an instruction to proceed and the stop bar has not been extinguished:

  • DO NOT cross the illuminated stop bar AND
  • immediately query the instruction with ATC.

Are there contingency procedures in place?

In the event that a fault occurs during stop bar switching, ATC has contingency procedures in place to ensure the safe movement of aircraft.

More information on these procedures are found in the Runway Stop Bars Safety Net or the Stop Bars Presentation on the Airservices website.


  1. So what if there are two aircraft waiting to cross the same runway from the same taxiway and the first is given a verbal clearance to cross and stopbar is extinguished. The second is then given a verbal crossing but the stopbar stays extinguished from the first aircraft, (timer operation and is still within X sec).
    Does the second aircraft need to see the stopbar go red then extinguish for the second crossing to be valid?

  2. I want to put a sign announcing a taxiway is a Rapid exit taxiway for aircraft code C, D, how do I do that?

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