What Every Pilot Should Know About Airport Signs

Quickly reading and understanding airport signs is critical to becoming a safe and efficient pilot. Missing a freeway exit sign on the road isn’t a big deal, but overlooking a sign at an airport could delay traffic at best and be dangerous at worst. But don’t worry, we’re here to help!

Types of Airport Signs

There are six types of signs used at airports: Mandatory Instruction Signs, Location Signs, Direction Signs, Destination Signs, Information Signs, and Runway Distance Remaining Signs. Let’s take a closer look at each type.

1. Mandatory Instruction Signs

Mandatory instruction signs mark critical areas (such as runways) where aircraft are not allowed to enter without clearance or areas where aircraft are not allowed to enter at all. These signs feature white text on a red background and are usually rectangular or square in shape. You can find them at taxiway and runway intersections, holding positions, and other critical points on the airport surface.

There are four types of mandatory instruction signs: Runway Holding Position Signs, Runway Approach Area Holding Position Signs, ILS Critical Area Holding Position Signs, and No Entry Signs.

Runway Holding Position Signs

A runway holding position sign indicates where to stop and hold before entering or crossing a runway. You’ll find these signs where taxiways intersect with runways. They display the runway designation, such as “27” or “9,” indicating the runway you’re about to enter or cross.

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Runway Approach Area Holding Position Signs

A runway approach area holding position sign indicates where pilots must stop and hold before entering an area that could interfere with aircraft on the final approach. These signs are found on taxiways near approach areas where aircraft are descending for landing. They display the runway designation with a dash, followed by “APCH,” informing you that you are approaching the critical area for the specified runway’s approach path.

ILS Critical Area Holding Position Sign

An ILS critical area holding position sign denotes the ILS critical area, which helps maintain the accuracy and reliability of ILS signals during instrument approaches in low visibility conditions. These signs are found on taxiways near the critical areas of ILS, typically close to the runway threshold or glide slope transmitter. They display the letters “ILS” and sometimes the runway designation.

No Entry Sign

No entry signs are placed at the entrance of restricted areas, indicating that aircraft are not allowed to enter. It is crucial to respect these signs to avoid unsafe situations or violations of airport regulations.

2. Location Signs

Airport location signs are vital for helping pilots navigate the complex network of taxiways, ramps, and other areas on the ground. These signs have yellow inscriptions on a black background and can be found along taxiways, ramps, and aprons. They display an alphanumeric code corresponding to the designation of the taxiway or area you’re on.

There are four types of location signs: Taxiway Location Signs, Runway Location Signs, Runway Boundary Signs, and ILS Critical Area Boundary Signs.

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Taxiway Location Signs

Taxiway location signs are used to identify the current taxiway that the aircraft is on. They display a letter or a combination of letters and numbers corresponding to the taxiway designation.

Runway Location Sign

Runway location signs are found near runway holding positions or intersections where taxiways meet runways. They display the runway designation and magnetic heading, as well as any letters indicating parallel runways.

Runway Boundary Sign

Runway boundary signs denote the intersection between the taxiway and the runway, where aircraft must stop if they do not have clearance to enter the runway.

ILS Critical Area Boundary Sign

ILS critical area boundary signs denote the holding position for ILS critical areas, ensuring the accuracy and reliability of ILS signals during instrument approaches.

3. Direction Signs

Direction signs help pilots navigate complex intersections and junctions on the ground. They have black inscriptions on a yellow background and display an arrow pointing in the direction of the turn, followed by an alphanumeric code corresponding to the designation of the taxiway, runway, or area.

4. Destination Signs

Destination signs mark the direction that an aircraft needs to go to arrive at a specific destination. These signs are similar to direction signs but focus on guiding pilots to destinations within the airport.

5. Information Signs

Information signs provide important pieces of text to pilots. They have black inscriptions on a yellow background and can be found anywhere at the airport where necessary.

6. Runway Distance Remaining Signs

Runway distance remaining signs provide pilots with information about the remaining usable distance of a runway for takeoff or landing. They have white inscriptions on a black background and display a number representing the remaining distance in thousands of feet.

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In conclusion, airport signs play a crucial role in maintaining the safety and efficiency of airport operations. As a pilot, understanding and quickly interpreting these signs is essential. Remember to always stay vigilant and use all available resources, including airport diagrams and ATC instructions. Enhance your knowledge and skills further by checking out our Essential Guide to Airport Markings. Safe flying!

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