NUMBERS and LETTERS on RUNWAY? explained by “CAPTAIN” Joe

NUMBERS and LETTERS on RUNWAY? explained by “CAPTAIN” Joe


Dear friends and followers, welcome back to my channel. Today’s question is a topic which we need to cover before we get started with the ILS explanation videos – what is the meaning behind the numbers and the letters on the runway? Make sure to watch this video until the end ’cause this is a very important topic. So let’s get started! I’m sure many of you have seen my approach and landing videos here on YouTube and you might have wondered what is that number and the letter you see on the runway just prior touchdown? So let’s first talk about the number. Okay we’re going to have to cover some basic navigation first. As we look at our Planet Earth we have the geometric north and south pole in each hemisphere marking the top and the bottom of the planet, but there is no instrument besides GPS which could guide us towards these poles. But the planet has its own magnetic field surrounding the Earth, creating the magnetic north and south pole which are slightly off from the geometric poles. Now, you’ve all seen a compass and you know that the needle always points towards magnetic north. Now, let’s look at this runway here. You can see the numbers 08. Now let’s imagine you could draw a line all the way from the magnetic north pole down until it crosses the runway centerline. You would see that the two lines create an opening angle of 80 degrees, meaning the runway centerline is 80 degrees relative to the magnetic north pole. So why are there only the numbers 0 and 8 on the runway? Like did they run out of paint or what? No, there are two reasons for that. Now let’s say the magnetic heading of the runway would be zero eight four then it would be rounded off to the nearest tenth so in our case zero eight zero Leaving out the last zero you have runway zero eight But if you would name the runway zero eight Zero could lead to misinterpretation as given headings are spelled the same way like fly heading one two zero for example Now as you sit in your plane on the runway, in this example runway zero five in Madera You know that your plane nose is pointing zero five zero degrees so heading north east and your plane’s tail is pointing plus 180 degrees into the opposite direction so the reciprocal runway should be yes Runway two three Ok, let’s fly into Naples, Italy. As you can see on the approach chart the final runway course of magnetic heading reads two three six so that would mean that if you would round off to the nearest tenth that will give us runway two four. Okay another example Here we have magnetic heading of three three one So that would give us round it off with the heading of three three zero or runway three three and by the way don’t ever say runway thirty-three the numbers are always spelt separately. Okay one more approach. Let’s fly into Frankfurt, Germany. Now the final runway course is two four eight so that would give us runway two five but now you see this letter L. So what Is that good for. Now as Frankfurt has three parallel runways each one of them has an identifier letter So in this video, we are approaching runway two five left so the L is for left, the middle one has a C for runway two five center and the third as an R for runway two five right So as you come into approach the ATC controller will say Speedbird one two five heavy turn left heading two one zero to intercept the ILS approach runway two five left or any other runway so that you know which runway to fly to Same with the tower controller. Here you can hear the LAX tower controller giving a landing clearance to a Fedex triple 7 and he clearly states which runway he is cleared to land on – Fedex thirty-seven forty-five heavy wind two six zero at five, runway two five left, cleared to land Cleared to land two five left, thirty-seven forty-five. Now as we are in Los Angeles, LAX has four parallel runways so how do you identify four runways? As you can see in this chart here all four runways have the same magnetic inbound course of two five one which would mean runway two five. But LAX had to name the two northern runways two for left and right despite the magnetic runway heading and the southern runways two five left and right to reduce the risk of misinterpretation during radio communication Obviously the same with the reciprocal runways zero six left and right and zero seven left and right What about magnetic variation? Now over the course of time the magnetic poles slowly drift meaning as the magnetic pole moves, it also changes the magnetic heading of the runway. Now the changes are only minor but if you look at this old chart from 2009 showing runway zero five and two three at London Stansted and you look at today’s approach chart you can see that Stansted had to change all the runway markings, taxi signs, charts etc so that the newer runway zero four and two two as you can see in this video. I would say bad luck for London Stansted So that was it for today. I hope you enjoyed the short video about the runway numbers and letters and make sure to fly-by my Instagram account, the link is in the description below and hit the subscribe button so you won’t miss out future technical videos. All the best see you next Thursday. Your Captain Joe

100 thoughts on “NUMBERS and LETTERS on RUNWAY? explained by “CAPTAIN” Joe

  1. Thank you for a sub in english and thai because sometime i can not listen to you because you talk to fast but sub help me wkth that and a word that i can not change it to thai to understand too because i am thai people thank you

  2. Captain Joe, I have a question for you. I notice on many videos that the runways appear not flat, some have humps, dips and some roller coaster. Is this just a topographical thing or does the aircraft use it to their benefit?

  3. Lol i was trying to figure out what the runway in the thumbnail lined up with and since i am down and know little about aviation i didnt know

  4. Captai Joe u are best… nobody explains clearly and louder than you. Many blessings again from Namibia Windhoek.

  5. Well I'd never thought those numbers actually meant something. Haha, he is right on this. A good pilot is always learning. However, I am not a captain. Learning is still a good thing tbh.

  6. Hi Captain.. Thanks for wonderful explanation. Would you be so kind to also explain the Airport/runway marking and signs?

  7. I can't stand a short final. Sometimes in a bravo or charlie airspace airports.
    If u are not cleared to land u have to do a missed approach.
    U cannot land unless u are cleared to lsnd.
    Its annoying lol.

  8. I just found this channel yesterday. I’ve been binge watching ever since! You’ve got my engineer brain churning! Great stuff!

  9. It’s for what run way it is
    Say air traffic control said this “proceed to landing”
    Your runway is 25r you would land at the 25th runway right side

  10. I just can't believe how easy it is to learn with this video, you have made so much efforts to explain. Thank you so very much

  11. You are the best when it comes to explaining stuff. What I learned is that it is not a good idea to build too many parallel runways.

  12. no hate off course joe, but actually a compas points to the magnetic south yes that's right our geological 'North Pole' is also the Magnetic South Pole. You're awesome and like you always say, ''a good pilot is always learning'' 😉

  13. How do airports or ATC determine when perform a runway change. As in say an airport will have all runways open and then other points in the day runway 22L & 22R would be closed?

  14. You know in the US, they will call it runway twentytree and runway 5 while in the rest of the world it is called runway two tree and runway zero five

  15. With all the computers, electronic aids and all you have in the cockpit nowadays, wouldn't it be easier to name the runways according to the true north? They wouldn't need to be renamed again.

  16. "Yes runway 2 3"….. the way he pronounced "3" makes me think of he's not British at all… I was wrong all the time… Anyway… Big salute to Captain Joe….

  17. what about an airport with a bunch of nearly parallel runways that are 1
    or 4 degrees off? If i understand right, they would all be rounded
    off to zeros. all labelled "00" one way

  18. I always chuckled when I heard pilots say “tree” instead of “three”. Never heard ATC use “tree” though.

    Funny story about the numbers thing. I flew into Portland International (PDX) during flight school and received my landing clearance for “Runway 10 (ten) Right.” The controller didn’t say, “1-0 Right,” as most would have.

  19. 5:35 This also happened to my home airport, Congonhas CGH SBSP. Before it was 16L/R/34L/R. Now it is 17L/R/35L/R

  20. Very useful topic, I didn't know that the runway's numbers are set with magnetic azimuth. I was thinking that the numbers and letters are randomly selected. Thanks, Captain, it helped me a lot…..!

  21. Hi captain, though l m not related to aviation but your vdeios are full of information. Always enjoyed. Roger.HAPPY LANDINGS

  22. The letters were self explanatory, but I'm happy I watched and learned something. Don't know when I'll use it, but I have another trivia answer…lol

  23. Доходчиво объяснил. Я думал, что привязка идет к истинному азимуту, а не к магнитному.

  24. north pole is drifting rapidly east towards Russia. airports in northern Europe will be affected more dramatically first.

  25. Theoretical question… If there was an airport at the north pole and magnetic north was precisely in the middle of the runway, would both ends be numbered 36?

  26. Very interesting, Captain.
    This video was recommended by your fellow Youtuber Captain Mentour on one of his videos. He was saying your content on this matter was very good. And he was right.
    Respect to the both of you.

  27. how do like the airport in johannesburg south africa where i live is it well layed out bad meduim do you like more importantly all the sunshine here

  28. Through the deciennia of being a aviaton fan I have seen lots of runway designator changes. Amsterdam Schiphol did it when the constructed the new runway west of the airport parallel to the existing two rwy's 19R/01L 19L/01R they were all changed to resp. 18L/36R 18C/36C and 18R/36L but the other runways were not changed and still have the same designators as when I came to Schiphol the first time back in the 1980's. Same goes for Brussel. Only the former 20/02 rwy has recently been changed to 19/01. So mostly this is done in combination with runway renewals /renovantions I think.

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