Question: When a controller tells a pilot “short and cleared for takeoff,” or “short and lineup and wait,” what does that mean? I have heard it while listening to ATC covering JFK Runway 13R/13L and during landing as well.
— Ted, N.J.
Answer: In the context you ask, I suspect you are hearing “hold short.” This is a clearance to remain clear of the runway and behind the runway line painted on the taxiway.
“Line up and wait” is a clearance to taxi onto the runway but NOT to begin takeoff.
You mentioned landing. I suspect that you may be hearing the hold short clearance in relation to a landing airplane. As an example, “American 123 hold short, landing Boeing 757.”
This is a very common ATC clearance.
Q: Why do some pilots, when cleared for takeoff, come to a complete stop on the runway while others will come off the taxiway and immediately take off?
— Mark, Charlotte
A: Often the ones that stop on the runway have a clearance to “line up and wait.” This clearance means that the captain taxi onto the runway and align it for takeoff, but he must stop. Once the conflicting traffic is clear, then the takeoff clearance is issued and takeoff begins. If there no conflicting traffic, then the rolling takeoff can be used.
Q: On a recent Southwest flight from New Orleans to Nashville, after the plane had backed away from the terminal the flight attendants began their safety announcement. As the plane slowly taxied, the attendant continued, “To put it on, place it over your head. Clip on the waistband and … WE’RE TAKING OFF!” The pilot had gunned the engines, and as it picked up speed, the poor attendants scrambled to get back to their jump seats. How unusual is this?
— submitted via email
A: Sadly, it happens occasionally. The pilots should listen to the flight attendant’s PA announcement and ensure they are finished and have enough time to get safely seated. Occasionally, the pilots will become preoccupied with pretakeoff checks and preparations when ATC clears them for an immediate takeoff. The pilots don’t check the status of the flight attendant’s announcement, and the situation you describe occurs.
It happened to me once, and I apologized to the flight attendants…