How to read airport taxiway signs

Written by robert morello Google
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How to read airport taxiway signs
Taxiway signs guide planes to and from the runway. (Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Airplanes make their way from hangar or gate to runway and back along a taxiway. Taxiways are marked with a series of signs and lights designed to ensure the safety and efficient movement of each plane while on the ground. To read taxiway signs properly you must understand the meaning of various symbols and markings.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Locate the surface painted markings starting at the runway or gate. These markings are the basic lane boundaries and guidelines to be followed when travelling from one place to the next. The taxiway centerline is indicated by a continuous single white line which may be fragmented so as not to interfere with other markings. The edges of taxiways may be marked with double yellow lines to signify the taxiway border, dashed yellow lines to signify the junction of two taxiway paths, or a series of yellow or blocks to signify that an area as unusable.

  2. 2

    Note the taxiway direction and position signs are also painted onto the taxiway surface. Taxiway direction signs tell the pilot which way to turn to remain on a given taxiway. They are placed to the right of the centerline when a right turn is upcoming and to the left for a left turn. Directional indicators consist of a yellow background field framing a single black letter and an arrow. Location signs are also surface painted but with a black background and a single yellow letter. These markings indicate the taxiway being used and are positioned to the right of the centerline. Geographic position markers appear throughout the length of the taxiway and consist of a white circle surrounded by a black circle with a pink centre background and black letter/number combination. These markings are used to give the plane's position during low visibility conditions.

  3. 3

    Stop at holding position marking and signs located at runways and gates. Holding position markings indicate where a plane should stop to remain out of danger of runway traffic or other taxiing aircraft. These signs are surface painted and consist of at least one solid line followed by one or two rows of line dashes. The line dashes are always facing the runway side. Pilots must not allow any portion of their aircraft to extend past the lines.

  4. 4

    Locate runways, gates and taxiways by reading the standing destination signs. A variety of directions are provided by standing rectangular taxiway signs including outbound destinations, taxiway and inbound destinations. Outbound destination signs provide runway numbers positioned to the right or left edge of the sign indicating direction. Taxiway destination signs show the taxiway letter with an arrow indicating direction. Inbound direction use abbreviated terms to indicate the location of terminal buildings, hangars and military installations.

  5. 5

    Pay attention to standing holding position signs. These signs consists of rectangular placards with the runway number followed by abbreviated terms like "APCH-22" which would indicate that the approach to runway 22 stands ahead. The aircraft must hold here until permission to proceed is granted by the control tower or risk wandering into the path of another plane.

Tips and warnings

  • Use flashcards to help memorise and recognise taxiway markings and signs.
  • Never attempt to operate an aircraft of any kind without the proper training and licensing. If you are unsure how to read or unclear of the meaning of any taxiway signage or markings do not proceed. Radio the tower and await instructions.

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