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Runway Stripes And Markings, Explained.

This story was made in partnership with ATP Flight School. Check out the full series here. Ready to become a pilot? Get started with ATP here.

How can runway markings help your everyday flying? Here are some great facts to know about the runways you land on.


Centerline Stripes And Gaps Make Great Distance Markers

Each runway centerline stripe is 120 feet long and 36 inches wide. The gaps between each stripe are 80 feet.

This is one of the best aids in determining your landing point, or how far you've floated down the runway. Remember the FAA's ACS Standards for short field landings? Private pilot applicants need to land within 200 feet of their chosen landing point. Commercial pilot applicants have tighter standards, and need to land within 100 feet of their designated landing point.

For example, let's say you made the beginning of a runway stripe the designated touchdown point for a private pilot short field landing. You need to land on that stripe, or within the gap beyond the stripe (120 feet + 80 feet). If you remember the measurements, you can practice more effectively and execute more precise landings.


The one major exception to this rule is obvious. Not all runways have perfect stripe lengths. According to the FAA, "Adjustments to the length of the stripes and gaps, where necessary to accommodate the runway length, are made near the runway midpoint." Below are two examples, showing how centerline stripes and gaps are adjusted towards the runway's midpoint.


Runway Number Height: Don't Land Short.

The runway's designation - the numbers identifying the runway direction - are 60 feet tall. If you're flying into a short runway, leave yourself a margin of error. Don't land short!


Threshold Markings For Runway Width

Have you ever wondered what the threshold markings mean on each runway? The number of markings represents the runway's width. The threshold markings are 150 feet long and 5.75 feet wide.

They're usually found on runways with instrument approaches, and are required on runways serving approach Category C and D airplanes. Threshold markings are also required on runways used by international commercial transport. Here's a breakdown of what the number of threshold markings means:


Runway Instrument Approach Category

Just by looking at a runway, you can tell if it has instrument approaches available. There's a lot that goes into each specific marking, so check out the FAA chart below...


Aiming Point Markers

The runway aiming points (commonly called the 1000 foot markers) are a perfect target to descend towards, and you should plan to touchdown on or just beyond them. If landing performance allows, having some of the runway prior to your point of landing will ensure that you don't land short. There's rarely a time when landing on the numbers is safer than landing near the aiming point. The aiming points are 150 feet long and 20 feet wide. If a runway is shorter than 4,200 feet, the aiming points may be shortened to 100 feet in length.

In almost every case, following the VASI will give a single-engine piston aircraft more than enough room to land and stop well before the end of the runway. It's much more likely for a single-engine piston to land short when aiming for the threshold than to overrun the runway after touching down near the aiming points.


What Else?

What else can runways tell you? Do you have any tips and tricks for other pilots? Tell us in the comments below.

Thinking about becoming a pilot? Get started with ATP Flight School, and find out how to start your aviation career here.

Swayne Martin

Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and a First Officer on the Boeing 757/767 for a Major US Carrier. He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota in 2018, holds a PIC Type Rating for Cessna Citation Jets (CE-525), is a former pilot for Mokulele Airlines, and flew Embraer 145s at the beginning of his airline career. Swayne is an author of articles, quizzes and lists on Boldmethod every week. You can reach Swayne at, and follow his flying adventures on his YouTube Channel.

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