Examining Runway Use at MSP

Selecting which runway to use for aircraft takeoffs and landings at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) is a complex task. Decisions about runway use at MSP are made carefully by the Federal Aviation Administration Air Traffic Controllers (ATC) on a continuous basis, and take into consideration numerous factors, including: safety, wind direction and wind speed (on the surface and aloft), air traffic congestion, aircraft weight, the number of inbound and scheduled outbound aircraft, and noise abatement.

At MSP the most frequently used runways are Runways 30L-12R (south parallel runway) and Runways 30R-12L (north parallel runway) These runways are used every day unless construction or unusual weather conditions do not allow their use. Runway 17 is used for departures in addition to the parallel runways to augment the flow of departing air traffic toward the south during high traffic demand periods. Runway 35 is used for arrivals in addition to the parallel runways to augment the flow of arriving aircraft from the south. Runway 4-22 is the longest runway at MSP -- about 11,000 feet long -- and it is used on occasion for arrival and departure of heavy aircraft (e.g., B747) that require longer distances for landings or takeoffs. Click here to view a diagram of MSP runways: MSP runways

When arriving and departing aircraft are sharing a runway for landing and taking off, ATC must direct aircraft movements in a systemized way that allocates sufficient spacing between arriving aircraft so that departing aircraft can take off before the next arriving aircraft lands.

A Runway Use System (RUS) is utilized at MSP to prioritize the order in which runways are assigned for arrivals and departures during times of the day when safety and air traffic demand allow some flexibility. However, once ATC establishes a synchronized flow of air traffic into and out of MSP adjustments to that flow must be orchestrated carefully to maintain a safe and efficient aircraft operating environment.

When the RUS is in effect at MSP the prioritization is as follows:


  1. Runways 30L and 30R
  2. Runway 35
  3. Balanced Use of Runway 4-22
  4. Runways 12L and 12R


  1. Runways 12L and 12R
  2. Runway 17
  3. Balanced Use of Runway 4-22
  4. Runways 30L and 30R

The Metropolitan Airports Commission tracks the number of aircraft takeoffs and landings that occur on each of MSP's runways. This information is published monthly and is available on the MAC Noise Program Office website here: MSP Monthly Operations. The October 2013 Technical Advisor's Report indicates that Runway 30R was used most often for arrivals (22.2% of all arriving air traffic) and Runway 17 was used most often for departures (29.9% of all departing air traffic) during that month.

For information on daily runway use, please visit the MAC Noise Program Office website to access the FlightTracker at www.macnoise.com/tools-reports/flighttracker.