As per this question. What are these numbers visible from the runway at Narita airport? A UK document is linked in the accepted answer but it doesn't list big number marking on the outside of the terminal. Surely such numbering is of little value to pilots- too coarse of location information. So who use such a gate number and how?

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    $\begingroup$ Why do you assume it's too coarse for pilots? $\endgroup$
    – falstro
    Jun 30, 2014 at 6:43
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    $\begingroup$ How much finer would you like the gate number to be? $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    Jun 30, 2014 at 6:50
  • $\begingroup$ You can line up a plane to some number marked on the terminal raised to the height the building over 300 metres away in low light. If every pilot can do that why have any other markings. A mark at the far end of the runway should be enough for them land on that runway. $\endgroup$ Jun 30, 2014 at 7:07
  • $\begingroup$ See this discussion at airliners.net - "how do pilots find their way through the taxiway labyrinth to the exact gate where they should park?" - "Gates are also marked with their numbers, either on the terminal building itself, the jetway, or in some places, painted on the ramp." - The numbers on the building are each at the precise position of each gate. $\endgroup$ Jun 30, 2014 at 9:04

3 Answers 3


Of course it's helpful to the pilots, and the ground crew, too. Even if you know the airport layout in detail, it's easier to go to the gate signposted as C27, say, than to go to the seventh gate on the left. Now remember that everybody who has ever flown a plane into that airport has flown there for a first time, and everybody who's ever worked ground crew there had a first week.

Just imagine the corresponding situation of a car park with somewhere between a few tens and a couple of hundred bays, where it's very important that you park in your assigned bay. Would each bay's number be written on it? Of course it would.

  • $\begingroup$ Not with the location of these signs- you aren't considering the location near the roof level of the terminal. Targeting A marker on a ramp would be much easier to spot and position yourself. $\endgroup$ Jun 30, 2014 at 9:56
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    $\begingroup$ Putting the signs at height makes them more visible from more places. That's why they put billboards up on walls instead of painting ads on the ground! $\endgroup$ Jun 30, 2014 at 10:05
  • $\begingroup$ No one needs to line with a billboard- you'd want to be at right angles from a gate location- right? $\endgroup$ Jun 30, 2014 at 10:08
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    $\begingroup$ @user2617804 the numbering helps you locate the right gate. Ground markings and other visual aids help you park at the gate. $\endgroup$
    – Federico
    Jun 30, 2014 at 10:21
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    $\begingroup$ @user2617804 As a person who made everyday use of large gate number signs mounted high, I can assure you that in general the higher and the bigger they are the better. You may be having to locate them from a quarter of a mile away. Also, the entry to and parking at a gate is not always at right angles, especially at concourses that have an expanded circular portion at the end. $\endgroup$
    – Terry
    Jul 1, 2014 at 2:31

The signs on top of the jet bridges are useful in identifying your assigned gate. Without these signs it would be easy to misidentify a neighboring gate if it also had a ground crew ready to accept an airplane. They are also useful for keeping an eye on an occupied gate from a distance while you wait for an aircraft to leave. They are also illuminated which helps locating the right gate at night or in low light.

The electronic signs high on the terminal building are helpful to aircrew and ground crews. They often list aircraft info, departure/arrival airports and time to scheduled pushback.

The on ground painted lines are useful for initially lining up for a gate and in making the elaborate maneuvers required getting into certain tightly spaced gates. Once you get this close you are being guided by ground crew and have wing walkers watching your clearances. The final painted ground positions for nosewheel position (by aircraft type) are only useful to the ground staff guy with the wands -- you can't see them yourself when needed.


Gate designation that are visible to the outside are important for a number of reasons. Mainly for Ground Support teams that service aircraft, fuel the planes, mechanics, baggage, and yes even pilots to use to find the correct gate to park upon arrival.

  • $\begingroup$ What does this add to the existing answers? $\endgroup$ Jul 3, 2014 at 9:05

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