Runway Markings

Any pilot needs to understand the markings around an airport, particularly runway markings. It’s important to understand runway markings so that you can avoid sensitive areas and operate according to FAA regulations.

Understanding runway markings is important no matter what type of aviator you are. Whether you are a passenger or a pilot – be that of a larger jet or a drone/UAV. In fact, UAV pilots testing for their Part 107 commercial license can be tested on runway markings so it’s important to understand what these markings mean.

Satellite picture of a runway with markings

Above is a satellite image of an a runway along with the taxiway and the markings on the runway. You can see a plane in the taxiway having moved from the terminal apron and it is making it’s approach to the runway.

Runway Diagram with Markings

Here’s a look at a runway and it’s diagram. You can see the same markings above on a real runway. Let’s start breaking down these markings to understand how a runway is marked.

Runway diagram with markings

The left most edge with the yellow chevrons is called the Blast Pad or Overrun Area. This zone is an area built at that the end of runway to allow for jet blasts or for planes that did not stop by the end of the runway. Use of the Blast Pad or Overrun Area for taxiing, take off or landing is not permitted.

Blast Pad marking on a runway
The Blast Pad or Overrun Area

The next section is the Displaced Threshold. Not every airport has one as you can see from the runway markings at the above airport. Displaced Thresholds can be used for takeoffs but not landings. However, landing aircraft can use the Displaced Threshold for roll outs.

Displaced Threshold marking on a runway.

Next up is the Runway Threshold. This marks the beginning of the runway available for landings. After the threshold is a runway number. The number represents the compass degree that the runway is orientated. In the example below, the “09” represents a runway oriented 90 degrees. In the real world example above the runway is orientated to 330 degrees. Optionally if there are parallel runways, the runway can be marked with an R, C or L for Right, Center or Left.

Runway Touchdown Zone markings

Following the runway name, the Touch Down Zone begins. It is marked by a series of Fixed Distance Marks. Down the middle is the Center Line and two solid white bars that mark the Landing Target Zone.

Taxiway enhanced markings

Just off the runway are taxiways that lead to the runway. It’s important to understand these markings as they connect with the runway. They are marked by parallel yellow lines and dashed yellow lines marking a warning zone to pilots that they are approaching the runway and that they need to stop unless they have obtained prior permission from the ATC to proceed.

Runway Regulations

Runway markings are highly regulated and consistent from one airport to the next. The FAA has a publication which outlines the markings and how they are to be done. In addition to runway markings, the regulations specify the taxiways, approaches and other markings at airports. Some regulations vary in different country, most are the same across the globe to provide uniformity.

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