Colors and Types
Runway markings are white. Yellow is used to mark taxiways, closed areas,
hazardous areas, and holding positions. A runway may be marked as a visual
runway, a nonprecision instrument runway, or a precision instrument runway.
Visual Runway Markings
A visual runway is intended for use by aircraft being operated under visual
flight rules (VFR). The markings on a visual runway include:
- Aiming Point
On a visual runway, threshold markings are only required if the runway is
intended for use by international commercial transports. The aiming point
marking is only required on runways 4,000 feet or longer, which are used by jet
Nonprecision Instrument Runway Markings
A nonprecision instrument runway is intended for use by aircraft operated under
VFR or instrument flight rules (IFR) and is served by a nonprecision instrument
approach. A nonprecision instrument approach allows the pilot to descend
in instrument flight conditions, but provides lateral guidance only. The
pilot on a nonprecision approach simply descends to a minimum altitude, flies a
prescribed course, and attempts to pick up the airport visually and land.
The markings of a nonprecision instrument runway include:
- Aiming Point
Precision Instrument Runway Markings
A precision instrument runway is intended for use by aircraft operating under
VFR or IFR and is served by a precision instrument approach. A precision
instrument approach provides instrument pilots lateral and vertical guidance
which places them just off the end of the runway and at the correct altitude.
The approach procedure is designed to place these pilots in a position to pick
up the approach lights. The approach lights guide them to the runway end,
and the precision runway markings guide them throughout the landing and landing
Precision instrument runway markings include:
- Aiming Point
- Side Stripe
- Touchdown Zone
Runway Designation Markings
Runways are designated with a number that is determined by the runway's magnetic
orientation rounded to the nearest ten. For example, if a runway was
oriented to a magnetic direction of 212 degrees, the runway would be designated
as runway 21. A pilot landing on runway 21 will be flying pretty close to
210 degrees on final approach and landing.
By designating runways in this way, a pilot is automatically aware of the
direction of takeoff or landing when using a particular runway. For
example, a pilot using runway 36 automatically knows that this runway faces
north. When the pilot uses this runway for takeoff or landing, the
airplane will be heading pretty close to 360 degrees.
You can takeoff and land on a runway in either direction. So, at the end
of the runway opposite runway 36, we should expect to see a big 18. Runway
18 and runway 36 refer to the same piece of concrete or asphalt. But, if
you takeoff or land going south, then you're using runway 18.
Many airports have multiple parallel runways. This could make the runway
designation system we have here pretty confusing, since at an airport like this,
there are multiple runways facing the same direction. If, for example, an
airport had two north-south runways, then "L" and "R" would be added to the
runway designations. The letters are short for left and right. In
this example, the runway on the east side of the airport would be 36R if landing
north and 18L if landing south. The west runway would be referred to as
36L or 18R.
If there are three runways facing the same direction, "C" may be used, which
means center. If the airport authority wants more than three parallel
runways, they will actually construct the runways so they face a slightly
different direction to avoid coming up with some kind of confusion. For
example, they may have runways 36L, 36C, 36R, and runway 1.
Runway Centerline Markings
Runway centerline markings provide pilots alignment guidance during takeoff and
landing. The markings consist of white dashed lines down the center of
Runway Threshold Markings
Runway threshold markings can be eight longitudinal stripes of uniform
dimensions, four on each side of the runway centerline, located prior to the
runway designation markings. The number of stripes may be altered,
however, to indicate runway width at some airports. If this type of
threshold marking system is used, then four stripes indicate a runway at least
60 feet wide. Six strips are used for a 75 foot wide runway. Eight
stripes are used for 100 feet. Twelve stripes are used for 150 feet.
Finally, 16 stripes would be used for a runway that was 200 feet or greater in
It is sometimes necessary, due to construction or runway maintenance, for
example, to close only a portion of a runway. When a portion of a runway
is closed, the runway threshold will be relocated, as necessary. It is
referred to, logically, as a relocated threshold. Methods
for identifying the relocated threshold vary. It is common for the
relocated threshold to be marked as a ten foot wide white bar across the width
of the runway. When the threshold is relocated, the closed portion of the
runway is not available for use by aircraft for takeoff, landing, or taxi.
You should find out about the closure of a runway or portion of a runway before
the flight by checking NOTAMs.
We pilots love to pull of those landings that leave our passengers unable to
determine the moment of touchdown, leaving them to experience surprise that
we've already landed or confusion about how the airplane could be flying so
slowly. We can then climb out of the airplane with pride and act like some
kind of magician. Sometimes, unfortunately, we are not quite able to
execute this type of landing and opt for the less desirable aircraft carrier
style landing. This, by the way, is an excellent reason to bring along a
second pilot (someone to blame it on). As a result, runways must be
constructed to take a pounding, which makes their construction very expensive.
Since airplanes require more distance to takeoff than they do to land, some
airports built a cheaper extension to a runway. This extension is cheaper
and works fine when used for taxi, takeoff, and landing rollout from the
opposite direction runway. It cannot withstand the punishment that could
be provided by landings, however. This area, which is unusable for
landing, is marked by a displaced threshold.
A displaced threshold is marked with a ten foot wide white bar across the width
of the runway, called a runway threshold bar. White arrows heads are placed just prior to the displaced
threshold bar, and white arrows are placed along the centerline in the area
between the beginning of the runway and the displaced threshold. These
markings make the area unusable for landings clearly distinguishable to the
The Demarcation Bar
Some runways have blast pads or stopways. A blast pad not
usable for taxi, takeoff, landing, or landing rollout. It is merely an
area off the end of the runway, which is paved to prevent erosion by jet and
prop blast. A stopway is a paved area off the end of the
runway, which is to be used in the event of an emergency overrun situation, in
which a landing aircraft was unable to stop on the runway. A stopway is
not intended for any other use. It is not usable for taxi, takeoff,
landing, or landing rollout.
A demarcation bar delineates a runway with a displaced threshold from a blast
pad, stopway, or taxiway that precedes the runway. It is a three foot
wide, yellow line across the width of the pavement or unusable area just prior
to the beginning of the runway.
Areas that are unusable for taxi, takeoff, landing, and landing rollout are
marked with large, yellow chevrons.
Runway Aiming Point Markings
The aiming point markings consist of a broad white stripe located on each side of
the runway centerline, approximately 1,000 feet from the landing threshold,
which serve as a visual aiming point for landing aircraft.
Runway Side Stripe Markings
These markings delineate the edge of the runway, providing pilots a visual
contrast between the usable runway surface and nearby terrain or shoulder, which
are unusable. Yellow runway shoulder stripes may be used to
supplement runway side strips, in order to aid pilots in the identification of
pavement areas near the runway, which are unusable.
Touchdown Zone Markings
Touchdown zone markings consist of one, two, and three rectangular bars
symmetrically arranged in pairs about the runway centerline at 500 feet
increments. These markings identify the runways touchdown zone. If a
runway has touchdown zone markings on both ends of the runway, some of the
touchdown zone markings near the center of the runway may be eliminated, if the
length of the runway results in the two sets of markings coming too near each
Closed Runway Markings
A closed runway is marked with yellow crosses at each end of the runway or
raised yellow lighted crosses at each end of the runway. If permanently
closed, yellow crosses are also placed at 1,000 foot intervals along the entire
runway. When a runway has been closed a significant amount of time, these
crosses may be faded, worn, or damaged by the disintegration of the pavement on
which they were placed.
If a runway is closed temporarily, a runway closure may have no visual
indication. Pilots should check NOTAMs and the ATIS for local runway and
taxiway closure information.