What do the platform numbers and letters mean?


Something you may have noticed as you looked out the window: a bunch of numbers, letters and figures on take-off and landing runways or on the signs next to these runways. To you these combinations may look like gibberish, but your pilot speaks the lingo. This pilot language or aviation signage is used at all airports to help pilots from all over the world find their way at any airport. So what do these combinations of letters and numbers mean? We’ll explain below!

Left, centre, right
Schiphol has six runways. These runways are officially named: Buitenveldert Runway, Oostbaan Runway, Kaagbaan Runway, Aalsmeer Runway, Zwanenburg Runway and Polderbaan Runway. For pilots, who fly to many different airports around the world, remembering the names of all these runways would be impossible. Especially when the pilot’s language uses a different alphabet than we do. Reason enough to use numbers as a way of identifying runways around the world. These numbers refer to the degrees on a compass.

The Kaagbaan Runway, for example, is located at 060-240 degrees, hence the official name: 06-24. Zwanenburg Runway, Polderbaan Runway and Aalsmeer Runway are located next to each other, at exactly the same degrees: 18-36. To make it clear to pilots which runway to use, we have added a letter to these numbers. L for left, C for Centre and R for right. This way, everyone knows which runway to use for take-off and landing.

The path to and from a runway is called a taxiway. Taxiways have names too. At Schiphol, we have given our taxiways combinations of one letter and one number. These signs are yellow and black.

Because planes are not particularly flexible due to their size, length and weight, lines have also been painted on the asphalt to assist pilots while taxiing and to help them take corners for example. White lines are used for this purpose on runways, and yellow lines on the taxiways. There are also special runway lights so the path to the gate can be found easily and safely in the dark. Once the red lines are in sight, the plane arrives at an aircraft stand where it will park and all travellers disembark. Welcome home!