In a book I'm reading there is a phrase "roll down" as follows:

When we checked the airplane again in the morning, it had been repaired - it turned out two wires had been crossed. My RIO, Bill Mnich, and I rolled down the runway that morning not knowing for sure whether this airplane would leave the runway in a controlled manner.

I don't understand the meaning of the phrase rolled down here.

Please explain to me. Thanks

  • 1
    A very good question. +1. I had heard rolling down windows. I'm curious to know how does one roll down the runway! :)
    – Maulik V
    Commented Jul 27, 2018 at 5:15
  • The book is Endurance, by Scott Kelly if you want to know :) Commented Jul 27, 2018 at 5:18
  • 3
    Please consider waiting longer before accepting an answer. :)
    – Em.
    Commented Jul 27, 2018 at 5:35

2 Answers 2


It's an idiomatic usage of the verb roll that roughly means move, cruise, travel:

5 c : to move on wheels

This usage of down roughly means along, as in we walked down the street. It is not necessarily indicating any kind of descent in this example.

20. in a descending or more remote direction or place on, over, or along: They ran off down the street.

The example sentence roughly means

My RIO, Bill Mnich, and I moved along the runway...

  • Well, separating the two words makes it easy to crack. The problem was to consider that as a phrasal verb.
    – Maulik V
    Commented Jul 27, 2018 at 5:42
  • That's interesting. I didn't see it as a phrasal verb. Maybe there's a better approach.
    – Em.
    Commented Jul 27, 2018 at 5:50

More specific to the other answer, when a plane rolls down the runway, it is gaining acceleration just prior to taking off.

From The Night Eagles Soared:

The Night Eagles Soared

So, in the book in question, when the plane is rolling down the runway, it is in the process of taking off and the protagonist is uncertain how well it will perform.

In comparison, when a plane taxis down the runway it is only moving at a slow manoeuvring speed. A plane taxis from the hangar down the runway to the point at which it stops while waiting for takeoff. (Or it taxis down the runway from where it lands back to the hangar.)


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