To help pilots navigate to a runway, the runway is numbered according to its position on a compass. A compass is a circle: 0°/360° is North, 90° is East, 180° is South, and 270° is West. The “degrees” on a compass are referred to as “magnetic bearings.” A runway’s number is written in degrees, but in shorthand format. For example, a runway with a marking of “14” is actually close to (if not exactly) 140° (a southeast magnetic bearing). A runway with a marking of “32” has a magnetic bearing of 320° (which is northwest). For simplicity, the FAA rounds off the precise magnetic bearing to the nearest tens. (For example, runway 7 might have a precise
magnetic bearing of 68°, but it is rounded to 70° to determine the runway name.
Navigating A Runway
Each runway end has a different number to compensate for the direction the pilot is approaching it from. For example, at GMU one of the runways is named 10 - 28. To convert this to a magnetic heading, we need to add a zero to the end of each number (10 becomes 100; 28 becomes 280). If you laid a huge compass over GMU’s runway, the runway would draw a line from approximately 100° to 280° .
When saying a runway name, each number is said separately, including zeros. Runway 10 is pronounced“Runway one-zero.”
Runway markings are white and assist pilots in aiming their approach to the runway. The threshold marks the start of the runway. The center line, which is a series of straight lines, marks the middle. The touchdown zone is the 1st 3rd of the runway or 3000 feet, whichever is less. The fixed distance markers are usually every 500 feet. Taxiway markings are yellow so as not to be confused with the runways.
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