If I am "departing runway 36", what does that mean? I understand that runway 36 is at the north end of the runway (360 magnetic); So my question is does the aircraft start at the north end 36 and take off on the south end 18? Or am I starting at the 180 position and taking off at the 360 position/runway 36?

And when landing is it the same or opposite? "Final for runway 36", does that mean the plane is touching down on the 360 north end of the runway heading to stop on the 180/runway 18 side?


2 Answers 2


There is a misunderstanding here. It is incorrect to say

runway 36 is north end of the runway

Runway 36 is the entire runway, with traffic moving to the north (i.e. facing about 360 degrees, magnetic). Runway 18 is the same north/south strip of pavement, with traffic moving to the south (i.e. facing about 180 degrees).

If you're lined up ON runway 36, you're at the south end of it, facing north. If you're on final for 36, you're south of the runway, pointing at it -- again, facing north.

If you are taxiing on the airport surface and need to cross that runway somewhere in the middle, it is correct to be cleared to "cross runway 36..." or to "cross runway 18..." or even to "cross runway 18/36...", typically followed by the taxiway you're to use: "... on taxiway Alpha." If there is no direction associated with the use, people typically refer to "Runway 18/36" in order to be clear, although sometimes you'll hear only one designation used. Either way works in that case.

The "Approach End of runway 36" is the end of the runway that you first cross on approach, so the south end. The "Departure End of runway 36" is the end that you cross after having departed on that runway -- so the north end. And, the "departure end of runway 36" is the same end of the same strip of pavement as the "approach end of runway 18". Which description is used depends on context -- i.e. if runway 18 is active (i.e. aircraft are arriving from the north & departing to the south), then controllers are more likely to talk about the approach or departure end of runway 18, than to refer to things in terms of runway 36.


RWY 36 means that you are approximately lined up for it, takeoff or landing, if your magnetic heading is 360.

You therefore line up on the south end and depart to the north. You arrive from the south, touch down on the south end TDZ (touchdown zone) and keep pointing north while slowing down.

  • $\begingroup$ So either way (takeoff or landing) the pilot destination is in the direction of the runway number? That is how I'm understanding your explanation. $\endgroup$
    – DroneDaddy
    Jul 23, 2018 at 18:27
  • $\begingroup$ “Destination” could be anywhere. The active runway is chosen based on wind at the surface (take off / land into the wind). But the aircraft heading is in the direction of the runway number (times 10) $\endgroup$
    – bartonjs
    Jul 23, 2018 at 18:29
  • $\begingroup$ Got it now. I should have said "aircraft heading" instead of destination. Thanks! $\endgroup$
    – DroneDaddy
    Jul 23, 2018 at 19:03

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