Transport Airlines

The FAA’s New Safety Flash Cards For Reading the Runway

Aug 29, 2013 9:42 am

Skift Take

The FAA should be commended for going with the mobile trend and optimizing these flash cards for smartphones. Hey, pilots can brush up on their signage while they have time to kill at the airport.

— Dennis Schaal

Free Report: The State of Student Travel


A taxiway ending marker sign indicates that a taxiway does not continue beyond an intersection normally located on the far side of an intersection if the normal visual cues, such as marking and lighting are inadequate.

These markings are used to show pavement areas aligned with the runway that are unusable for landing, takeoff, and taxiing. Chevrons are yellow. Chevrons cover blast pads or stopways, which are constructed to protect areas from erosion caused by jet blasts (blast pad) and to provide extra stopping distance for aircraft (stopways).

Located next to the Instrument Landing System (ILS) Holding Position Marking. Proceeding past this sign ensures the aircraft or vehicle is clear of the ILS critical area.

The non-movement area boundary marking is used to delineate the movement areas, which are under Air Traffic Control, from the non-movement areas. The solid side of the line is on the non-movement area side and the dashed side is on the movement area side.

Usually located next to a taxiway location sign, these yellow signs indicate the direction of intersecting taxiways. In this example, taxiway Charlie is to the left and right, and Alpha, which is the taxiway the aircraft or vehicle is currently located on, continues ahead and to the right.

These markings are used to support the operational need by the Air Traffic Control to manage taxiing aircraft through a congested intersection or for other reasons deemed necessary by the FAA. Pilots when instructed by the airport traffic control tower to “hold short of (taxiway designation)” must stop so no part of the aircraft extends beyond the boundary of the intermediate holding position marking.

Pilots and Vehicle operators must stop short of the Runway Approach Area Holding Position Sign, keeping all parts of the vehicle or aircraft clear of the area when instructed by Air Traffic Control (ATC).

These signs indicate directions and designations of intersecting taxiways.

Pilots and Vehicle operators must stop short of the ILS Critical Area Holding Position Sign, keeping all parts of the vehicle or aircraft clear of the area when instructed by Air Traffic Control (ATC). Aircraft and vehicles proceeding past this point may interfere with the ILS signal to approaching aircraft.

These markings identify the locations on a taxiway where an aircraft or vehicle is supposed to stop when it does not have clearance to proceed onto or cross the runway. These markings are installed on runways only if the runway is normally used by Air Traffic Control for “land and, hold short” operations or taxiing operations and have operational significance only for those two types of operations. The solid lines are on the side where the aircraft is to hold and the dashed lines are on the side toward the runway.

Indicates the distance of runway remaining in thousands of feet. In this example, 3,000 feet remain on the landing runway.

The purpose of this enhancement is to warn the pilot that they are approaching a runway holding position marking and should prepare to stop unless they have been cleared onto or across the runway by Air Traffic Control. The taxiway centerlines are enhanced for a maximum of 150 feet prior to a runway holding position marking.

Indicates a closed runway or taxiway. It will also be placed at each entrance of a permanently closed taxiway. A raised-lighted X may be used in lieu of a pavement marking.

Sometimes construction, maintenance, or other activities require the threshold to be relocated towards the rollout end of the runway. When a threshold is relocated, it closes not only a set portion of the approach end of a runway, but also shortens the length of the opposite direction runway.

Located next to the Instrument Landing System (ILS) Holding Position Marking. Proceeding past this sign ensures the aircraft or vehicle is clear of the ILS critical area.

Indicates the taxiway on which the aircraft is located. (May be co-located with direction signs or runway holding position signs, as shown in graphic.)

Identifies the runway on which the aircraft is located.

This sign faces the runway and is visible to pilots and vehicle operators exiting the runway. It is located next to the yellow Runway Holding Position Marking painted on the taxiway pavement. Proceed past this sign to be clear of the runway.

Let’s face it: Takeoffs and landings get all the glory.

But, then in a heavily choreographed ballet, pilots taxiing along the runway get instructions from the tower while ground personnel holding sticks direct them when to turn, slow down or pirouette.

In addition to all these directives, pilots get visual cues from a seeming inscrutable array of signage scattered around the runways.

At times some of these markings can be very difficult to fathom even for pilots so this month the FAA created runway safety flash cards “to help pilots better understand runway signage and markings.”

Hey, the principle is the same whether flash cards are for kids learning to read, “See Spot Run,” or pilots needing to brush up on interpreting a runway sign detailing pavement areas near the runway that are off-limits for landing.

The gallery (above) shows these runway safety flashcards for pilots. The FAA created all of these flashcards and wrote the definitions found underneath each card.

The flashcards can also be found here on the FAA site as the FAA displays a flash card gallery optimized for mobile. From a smartphone you can tap the screen or rotate it 90 degrees to see the back of the flash card with the definition.

And, the FAA even has a runway safety quiz there, as well.

You can’t blame pilots for needing a brush-up course on this signage because it can be confusing, and several appear so similar that they could be misread as identical, although there are subtle differences.

My favorite flash cards in the gallery above are “3” (meaning there are 3,000 feet left on the landing runway), and that’s always good to know; “X” (stay out because the runway or taxiway is closed), and that’s easy to remember, and “A,” which tells the pilot on which taxiway he or she can find the aircraft, which is a very important detail.

Many of the other flash cards are more difficult to master.

Give them a whirl and perhaps take the quiz.

Safe travels in the meantime.

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