As just a passenger, not a pilot, this may be a very basic question, but when I am on an airplane leaving the terminal, it goes over a symbol on the tarmac that looks like this:

enter image description here

Also I see signs on the side of the runway pointing to those markers.

On a related note, there is a similar sign near the gate that looks like this:

enter image description here

What do these signs mean?

  • $\begingroup$ I was wondering if they had dark background (like the one I put in your question), or yellow background (this is another meaning). $\endgroup$ – mins Aug 18 '16 at 13:32
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I think I have seen both. $\endgroup$ – OldBunny2800 Aug 18 '16 at 13:34
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It is the line that you don't cross without ATC permission if you don't want to get butt-squashed or impaled by another airplane. $\endgroup$ – SMS von der Tann Aug 18 '16 at 13:53

The first one is the holding position marking. It denotes the entrance from the taxiway into the runway. The dashed lines are in the side of the runway.


The second one is the non movement area boundary mainly for vehicles, which divides the movement and non-movement areas of boundary- the movement area is on the dashed line, for moving into which you'll need ATC clearance.


Images from FAA Guide to Ground Vehicle Operations

  • $\begingroup$ Doyou know if it coincides with the limits of ground ATC (simple lines) and tower ATC (double lines)? $\endgroup$ – mins Aug 18 '16 at 15:44
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @mins If you're talking about an active runway that's the case, but ground control generally handles the inactive runways, so it's not universally true. Basically it's a visual cue (in addition to the sign and the fact that the runway numbers are usually painted on the ground) to let you know that you're approaching a runway, and if you weren't expecting that you may not be where you think you are on the airport. $\endgroup$ – voretaq7 Aug 18 '16 at 16:14

Here's the big book of everything:


Your first example is a runway hold. That is the physical boundary of the runway.

See page 112 (PDF).

The second is a non-movement area boundary. This is the the boundary of where ATC controls. For example, they may park the snow plows beyond this boundary. When they plow crosses the boundary, it needs to be in radio contact with the ground controller in the tower.

See page 114.


As mins said in his comment, it's a "holding position" marking; it denotes the entrance to runway from a taxiway. It's like the solid white line at a traffic light, except that pilots don't usually roll over it while waiting to be cleared onto the runway (waiting for the light to go green).

The sign you saw is a "Runway Safety Area / OFZ and Runway Approach Area Boundary". It is on the side of a sign pilots will see when exiting an RSA (Runway Safety Area) or OFZ (Obstacle Free Zone).

Here's a reference of the various airport markings.

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Because the OP isn't familiar with these markings, it might be helpful to expand your answer a bit to explain not just what they are, but also what they're for. $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Aug 18 '16 at 13:22

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.