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Runways , landing fields and landing strips

Updated on May 6, 2015
Red arrows demo team performing a low pass
Red arrows demo team performing a low pass


A runway is defined by Civil Aviation Authority, as a rectangular surface on a land airport prepared for the land and take off of aircraft.

Runways are mainly divided in two categories.

- Artificial runways, constructed by humans and are mainly build by asphalt, or concrete. They are certified under an authority. They are divided in categories in respect to their dimensions weight baring capacity and their brake efficiency. All modern aircraft are designed to able to in order to operate from those runways.(except of seaplanes, putting down a seaplane on a hard runway has to be considered as a bad idea. )

- Natural runways and landing strips(grass, dirt, gravel, ice, or salt). These are either pure fields with no or limited intervention of humans, or airfields constructed exclusively by human, for the purpose of takeoff and landing of aircraft.

Macau International Airport (VMMC)
Macau International Airport (VMMC)

Artificial runways.

All airports have artificial runways. These runways are considered the safest and most consistent surface to land and take-off aircraft from. They can be equipped with numerous aids and markings, so they may be used under all weather conditions and visibilities. For limited visibility and night operations the runways must be equipped with appropriate lights and sign posts to depict the intersections and taxiways at night. If equipped with ILS (Instrument Landing System) Category III B, an appropriate aircraft approaching has a decision height of 50 feet (15meters) and may use their autoland capabilities. Yes you guessed it correctly, in autoland mode aircraft can land all by themselves.

Lights of an IFR approved runway
Lights of an IFR approved runway

Natural runways and landing strips.

Early airports used these types of runways and nowadays most commercial aircraft are incapable of landing safely on these runways. Nowadays they are used mainly by lighter GA (General Aviation) aircraft and commuter aircraft. Unlike the artificial runways landing strips have their risks. Their loose surface can easily be distorted by weather or another aircraft, so almost no landing and take-off can be the same. It is the pilot`s responsibility to evaluate the safety of an airfield and its condition. Their risks are numerous like a heavy rain can make the runway too soft and muddy, to a state that it might not be able to carry the loads of a landing aircraft any more, or even develop cracks and holes that can sear off the landing gear of an aircraft.

Cessna 172 on grass strip
Cessna 172 on grass strip
LGAV - Athens international airport
LGAV - Athens international airport

Runway names

The runways take their designations (names) by their magnetic orientation to the magnetic north, by a number between 01 and 36, which is generally one tenth of the magnetic azimuth of the runway's heading. If more than one parallel runways are orientated to the same direction they also have identifications like: Left, Center and Right. The same runway may be used in either directions, depending on the weather (wind direction) or regulations (noise abetment).

EX. Athens International airports runways.

03L/21R – Magnetic heading 034 / 214

03R/21L – Magnetic heading 034 / 214

Runway markings
Runway markings
DHC - 6 Twin Otter seaplane
DHC - 6 Twin Otter seaplane

Other surfaces to land.

Pilots may land aircraft also on water surfaces as long as their aircraft are designed as amphibious or flying boats, and the pilots are trained and certified to do so. Some pilots called BUSH pilots also operate their aircraft, in pure nature surfaces on fields, river beds and other.

Aircraft carrier

You thought I forgot it? Well... no. Even though it is extremely unlikely that anyone will land a civilian aircraft on an aircraft carrier, nevertheless I have to mention these monstrosities, cruising the seven seas and each providing enough fire-power to much almost any lesser countries airforce.

An aircraft carrier is a warship with a full-length flight deck and facilities for carrying, arming, deploying, and recovering aircraft, that serves as a seagoing airbase. Typically, it is the capital ship of a fleet, as it allows a naval force to project air power worldwide without depending on local bases for staging aircraft operations. It is extremely expensive to build and important to protect.

Aircraft carriers have evolved from converted cruisers to nuclear-powered warships that carry numerous fighter planes, strike aircraft, helicopters, and other types of aircraft.

Where is best to land for fun?

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    • Aviators profile imageAUTHOR

      Welcome to Aviators Channel of GReat network! 

      3 years ago from Greece

      You are right...I changed images but did not edit the caption

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      That's actually the Macau International Airport and NOT the Princess Juliana International Airport.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Hi Dwaye,There's a lot of value with your videos. Great job of lniayg out the core concepts of keyword research. People that need to learn more about these concepts are sure to benefit from this high value lesson!All the best,Jim Jinright

    • Aviators profile imageAUTHOR

      Welcome to Aviators Channel of GReat network! 

      3 years ago from Greece

      Thank you very much dear reader.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

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