Can someone explain the naming scheme behind airport runways?


All the time when watching airliner radio chatter vids and stuff like that, I see runways being referred to by names like 9-left or 27-right, what gives? Is there a specific reason a runway might be called that despite the airport not having nearly that many runways? Wouldn’t it just be simpler to have runway 1, runway 2, etc.?

In: Other

Runways are numbered off of compass headings – round to the nearest 10th degree and drop a zero and there’s your runway number. That way, when you’re working with someone whose primary navigation tools includes a compass, they can quickly ascertain whether they’re pointed at the correct runway.

Left and Right only comes into play when there are a pair of runways in a parallel configuration, at which point you really need to know whether you’re expected to be on the left runway or the right runway.

Runways are named for their compass bearing. So Runway 2-5 is the one at compass bearing 250 (or actually 241-250 because they round up and then drop the last zero.) so when a pilot is told “you’re coming in on runway 3-2” they know roughly where the plane should be.

If there are two runways in parallel on the same bearing, one is designated Left, and the other Right.

It’s better than just naming them 1,2 etc because it’s actually meaningful.

The runway name is its magnetic azimuth in decadegrees. What that means is that if you have a runway that is positioned 90 degrees from magnetic north (pointing East) it would be called runway 09. A runway that is pointing the other direction, 270 degrees from magnetic north (pointing West), would be called runway 27. Runways can be used in either direction and have different names depending on which direction they are being used.