A runway is the area where an aircraft lands or takes off. It can be grass, or packed dirt, or a hard surface such as asphalt or concrete. Runways have special markings on them to help a pilot in the air to tell that it is a runway (and not a road) and to help them when they are landing or taking off. Runway markings are white.
Most runways have numbers on the end. The number is the runway’s compass direction. (For example, runway numbered 36 would be pointing north or 360 degrees). Some airports have more than one runway going in the same direction, so they add letters to the end of the number R for right, C for center, and L for left. The other end of the runway is pointing in the opposite direction, so it gets a different number. The runway called 36 would be called 18 (for 180 degrees) if you were looking at it from the other end.
Runways may have other markings besides the end number on them. They may have white stripes down the middle of them, and solid white lines on the edges. The most important thing for you to remember about a runway is that it is meant for aircraft use, so you should never drive your vehicle on it, unless you are authorized to do so.
Taxiways are areas used by the aircraft to get to and from their parking place and the runway. Taxiways look a lot like runways, but they usually aren’t as wide as the runway, and they don’t have the same kind of markings. Taxiway markings are yellow. Instead of numbers, taxiways use letters (like A, B, or C) for names. Like runways, taxiways are meant for aircraft use. Never drive your vehicle on a taxiway unless you are authorized to do so.
Aircraft aprons are the areas where the aircraft park. Aprons are also sometimes called ramps. They vary in size, from areas that may hold five or ten small planes, to the very large areas that the major airports have. Unlike the runways or taxiways, vehicles can use aprons. Your work may require you to drive on an apron. If so, be very careful in these areas. Watch out for aircraft that are moving and yield the right of way to them. Don’t assume the pilot will see you and stop – he or she may be busy with other things like radio communications or checking the aircraft instruments. Every year there are many accidents involving vehicles and aircraft that result in property damage, personal injury, and in some cases, death. Don’t let this happen to you! Your airport Executive Director has established rules for driving a vehicle on the airport – get a copy and read and obey them. The rules are there for your safety as well as the safety of the aircraft pilot and passengers.
In addition to watching out for moving aircraft, be careful not to get to close to a parked one. Aside from nicks and dents, which are expensive to repair, you could be hurt if an aircraft suddenly started its engine and you were to close. You should also be aware of the problem of jet blast or prop wash. This occurs when an aircraft engine is running. If you are near the aircraft, especially if you are behind it, you can be hit by a strong wind that can knock you onto the ground, and in some cases can even burn you. There have been several cases where vehicles have been overturned by jet blast. One way to tell if an aircraft is about to start its engine or if the engines are already running is to look for a flashing light on top of the fuselage (body) of the aircraft.