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What Do The Numbers on the Runways Mean?

The numbers signify the direction (heading) of the runway.

Runways are numbered with the first two numbers of their heading (using magnetic north), with runway 01 pointing almost north (36, signifying 360 degrees, points directly north), 09 pointing east, 18 pointing south, and 27 pointing west.

What happens if you have multiple runways in the same direction, which is very common at large airports? Then you add a letter, L for left, C for center, and R for right.

This global standard results in a uniform runway numbering system that gives the pilot a great deal of information in a concise, reliable, manner.

As a sidenote, if the runway can be used in both directions, it will have two different notations. For example, a perfect north-south runway that’s parallel to another runway could be 36-R for a plane landing from the south or 18-L for a plane landing from the north.

If you are interested, there is a more detailed explanation and additional comments in case you want to know it all …

Via Quora …

This might come in handy also … or if you need to win a geekiest geek contest … 🙂


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20 February 2012 Internet 5 Comments


  • Dunroamin says:

    WHy is Oscar phonetically spelt like someone has a Boston Accent?

    • hypercarrots says:

      The pronunciation of the codes for the letters of the alphabet and for the digits varies according to the language habits of the speaker. To eliminate wide variations in pronunciation, several of the pronunciations indicated are slightly modified from their normal English pronunciations: /ˈælfɑ, ˈbrɑːˈvo, ˈʃɑːli, ˈdeltɑ, ˈfɔkstrɔt, ɡʌlf, ˈliːmɑ, ˈɔskɑ, siˈerɑ, ˈtænɡo, ˈuːnifɔrm, ˈviktɑ, ˈjænki/, partially due to the substitution of final schwas with the ah vowel.

  • 5oclockshadow says:

    These runway numbers can change from time to time as well.

    The Earth’s magnetic North Pole is currently moving towards Russia.

    I miss my flying days. Although, I always felt stupid saying ‘Tree’ and ‘Fife’.

  • Tom says:

    Wouldn’t it be funny if the phonic for X were xylephone or something like that?

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