View Full Version : Runway numbering

25th Nov 2004, 14:30
Funny how you take many things for granted without thinking about their evolution. So here is a question for those of you older and wiser than I.

Wartime RAF documents tend to list runways with a QDM value (useful for letdown procedures) but not with a specific runway ID. This leads me to think that ID's only appeared later and I am guessing it may be related to increased use of R/T over W/T with a need for more precise verbal communication. However this is only a guess and I would welcome any comments from this venerable list as to when runway ID's first appeared and when they became accepted as the norm.

I could ask why there are no runway markings on aircraft carriers but that will only bring up the subject of billiard tables on ships. javascript:smilie(';)')


26th Nov 2004, 01:37
And who invented the Wind Sock ?

And where was it first used?

26th Nov 2004, 13:55
Wind socks: I remember reading in 'West with the Night' by Beryl Markham (?) how she was requested to fly out to the bush in Kenya to pick up a seriously hurt person (1930's). Middle of the night as all such requests came. Well she asked the people to mark out a runway and put up a windsock. She arrived to find the strip with little wind showing, but her landing indicated differently. Said windsock wasn't too effective. The people not knowing much had taken the description literrally, with one end open, but unfortunately the other was closed!

26th Nov 2004, 15:47
Thanks Mike.

Admittedly the creation of a hard runway rather limited the choice of landing direction (not entirely a good thing in taildragger days) but would allow the display of a specific heading. However I am asking if the display of a runway designator came about almost immediately or was it something that evolved later?

By 1944 the RAF had a good number of hard surfaced aerodromes but the data sheets I have still show a QDM rather than a specific ID. I'm still trying to work out if it's the paperwork that misses out the information or whether QDM was actually used until runway ID's appeared at a later stage.

Were runway designators a post war development or can readers recall their use during the war?


Atcham Tower
26th Nov 2004, 21:33
Runway QDM numbering was introduced on March 5 1944. Before that, runways were numbered consecutively from nearest to north and then clockwise - one, two, three etc.

27th Nov 2004, 14:39
Thanks Atcham.

Your posting at least tells me that the concept of runway identification already existed before the publication of QDM's. I had tended to assume the latter evolved into the former.

Would it be true to say that the publishing of QDM values from 5/3/44 also triggered the change of the runway ID from 1, 2, 3 etc to two digits reflecting the nearest QDM?

Sorry to be pedantic here but the docs I have show QDM's (015, 195 etc) but make no reference to the actual runway ID (01/19). It's because of this that I question when actual painted ID's came into operation. Looking at a few late WW2 airfield photographs very few runways seem to have any painted marks at all!


Atcham Tower
27th Nov 2004, 18:56
Yes, I should have said that the 09/27 style of designator came in in March 1944. I believe from photos of the period that IDs were not painted on runway thresholds until after the war. This was presumably for security purposes and to avoid highlighting runways even more. Not that the Luftwaffe was around much in daylight by then, but there was a very real fear that countermeasures might be taken against the D-day build-up.

27th Nov 2004, 19:08
When I was a London Airport spotter inthe late 1950s runways were referred to as 1 and 6 which I think are the current 09/27 R & L.

27th Nov 2004, 20:46
1 (10L / 28R) ( 10 / 28 in 1946)
2 (05R / 23L) ( 05 / 23 in 1946)
3 (16/32 in 1946, short lived, obliterated by Central Area)
4 (15L / 33R)
5 (10R / 28L)
6 (15R / 33L)
7 (05L / 23R)
8,9 and 10 were proposed north of the Bath Road.

28th Nov 2004, 03:54
Thanks Talkdownman.

It's looking as if it was part of the major postwar revamp by the MoA.. Or was it still DCA in those days...


28th Nov 2004, 11:07
And who invented the Wind Sock ? And where was it first used? If we define a windsock as something like:
a conical fabric tube open at both ends used for assessing wind velocity for a practical purpose
then its use is probably as old as bows and arrows. I've certainly seen ancient oriental prints of chinese armies with recognisable windsocks being used by hordes of archers, presumably to judge how much to "lay off for drift".
So suggested answers are:
Who - the Chinese
Where - er ....China?