Airport Taxiways: Markings, Signs, Lights & Colors

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  • 0:04 What Is an Airport Taxiway?
  • 0:50 Path Markings
  • 1:29 Colored Lights
  • 2:33 Pathway Signs
  • 4:28 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

Airport taxiways feature signs and lights that serve as markers for pilots and other airport personnel. In this lesson, discover what the markings and lights mean and how they are used to regulate aircraft traffic.

What is an Airport Taxiway?

Have you ever been on an airplane? If you looked out of the window of an airplane as it moved toward a runway for take-off, you have seen a taxiway.

A taxiway is a ground path used by aircraft that connects a runway with another area of an airport. Taxiways are usually made of concrete or asphalt, and much like runway surfaces, are pretty solid - anything from a foot to five feet in thickness. A taxiway might connect a runway and a terminal or a runway and a hangar. Normally, only authorized airport personnel, such as pilots, are allowed to travel taxiways.

Markings, signs, and colored lights are featured along taxiways and runways of major airports. What do they indicate? In this lesson, we'll explore these important indicators and discuss the information they convey to airport personnel.

Path Markings

Roadways are marked with white lines. By contrast, aircraft paths are always marked in yellow. These yellow line markings are used to differentiate between types of surfaces or paths. A dashed line separates two pathways that are intended for aircraft but are separate routes, or otherwise aren't normally crossed. Instrument landing system (ILS) markings look much like ladders and indicate ILS critical areas that shouldn't be entered. A single, solid yellow line normally marks the center of a taxiway. A double yellow line indicates the edge of a taxiway that shouldn't be crossed by an aircraft because the area outside of the lines is not intended for aircraft usage.

Colored Lights

Taxiways and runways also feature ground lights. They notify airport personnel of location, direction, where one should stop, and what areas are not suitable for aircraft. These lights are especially useful to pilots when it's dark outside or when visibility is poor.

The edges of taxiways feature blue lights. The brightness of the edge lights can be changed by pilot request.

Taxiways also have centerline lights, which are green lights running along the center of the taxiway.

Runway guard lights are used when a taxiway nears a runway. Two elevated yellow flashing lights on each side of the taxiway may serve as guard lights. Alternatively, a row of ground-level yellow lights which cross the whole taxiway may be used.

Clearance bar lights are used to make it more obvious where aircraft must hold position. These are made up of three continuous yellow lights. They might also be used for intersections between different taxiways when it's especially dark outside.

Some airports may use red bar lights to indicate a place to stop. Red lights should never be crossed unless clearance is given by air traffic control and the lights have changed in color.

Pathway Signs

Signs along taxiways indicate a variety of things to airport personnel. Every route has a number associated with it, similar to the way each highway used by motorists has been assigned a number.

Yellow and black signs along a taxiway provide location and directional information. A black sign with yellow letters or numbers indicates where the aircraft is located. A letter represents the particular taxiway (such as taxiway A or taxiway B). A number represents the nearby runway (such as runway 4 or runway 5).

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