Hold Short Lines on Runways

Airports · 6 min read · Sep 12, 2022
hold short lines


If you’ve ever been to an airport, you’ve probably noticed the runway holding position markings and signs. These are simple, but important, features that help to keep aircraft safe while they’re on the ground. These are runway markings and signs. The runway holding position markings are usually a series of lines that intersect the runway. They’re typically painted in a bright color so that they’re visible to pilots.

When you’re landing at an airport, it’s important to know what the runway markings and signs mean. If you’re not familiar with them, you could end up in a dangerous situation. Let’s discuss those airport markings and signs.

What does holding short of runway mean?

Hold short of the runway means to wait, to stay away from a taxiway centerline or a runway. It means pilots MUST STOP so that no part of the aircraft extends beyond the holding position marking.

Runway holding position marking is used to control air traffic and help ensure the safe and efficient use of the runway while runway construction or maintenance is being performed.

The runway holding position markings consist of one or more solid yellow lines, each line being at least four inches in width, that are perpendicular to the runway centerline intersecting the runway hold short lines.

These markings are supplemented with runway holding position signs. The runway holding position lines stop short of the runway threshold by a distance that is prescribed by the aircraft manufacturer or approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.

This distance is usually 150 feet but can be as much as 300 feet for the landing aircraft. The purpose of this runway safety area is to provide a buffer between the aircraft and the work area on or near the runway.

By maintaining this distance, the potential for collision between aircraft and workers or equipment is minimized.

A view of the runway from an aircraft cockpit.

What do hold short lines indicate?

The hold short lines indicate where an aircraft should stop before entering the runway. They help to ensure that aircraft are properly positioned before taking off or landing. Aviation is a complex and dangerous industry, so it’s essential for pilots to follow these simple rules.

The runway holding position markings and signs are just one small part of the overall system that helps to keep everyone safe.

These lines indicate where you should stop your aircraft if you are instructed to do so by air traffic control. If you cross a hold short line without clearance, you could cause a serious accident.

Why do airlines use short lines?

There are several reasons why airlines use short lines.

First, they help to ensure that each aircraft is lined up in the proper position for takeoff. This minimizes taxiway congestion and prevents runway blockages.

Second, short lines improve runway safety by reducing the chance of an aircraft taxiing into the path of another.

Finally, short lines help air traffic controllers maintain efficient runway operations by clearly identifying where each aircraft should be positioned.

An aircraft passing hold short lines on the runway.

Airport Marking Signs

Airport markings are divided into 4 categories.

  1. Runway Markings.
  2. Taxiway Markings.
  3. Holding Position Markings.
  4. Other Markings.

Runway Markings

Runway holding position marking on taxiways identify runway threshold markings

All airports have markings and signs that help pilots know where the runway is and how to line up with it. These are called runway visual aids.

Runway markings are painted on the pavement and help pilots align the airplane with the enhanced taxiway centerline of the runway. They also tell pilots where to stop or landing runway remaining if they need to abort their takeoff or landing.

Runway threshold markings tell pilots where the runway distance remaining, and runway approach lights help pilots see the runway during bad weather.

Runway threshold are indicated with green runway lights on the front approaching side while it shows red runway light on the departure side.

These markings are important because they help pilots land safely.

Taxiway Markings

Position markings on taxiways identify the edge of the taxiway. When the edge of the taxiway edge does not coincide with that one of the pavement, taxiway edge markings are used.

Markings identify the location of taxiing aircraft during low visibility operations.

There are two types of taxiway markings. i.e. Continuous and Dashed markings.

Continuous Markings

The yellow pavement markings on each side of the taxiway are important taxiway design elements.

These consist of yellow solid lines spaced every six inches with each one being at least 6 inches wide or so to create room for aircraft movements without bumping into their wings when trying to engage these spaces in passing by quickly while taking off/landing from different airports around town!

An aircraft following continuous taxiway markings.

Dashed markings

Dashed lines are consisting of broken double yellow dashed lines marked at least 6 inches (15 cm) wide, spaced 6 inches (15 cm) apart (edge to edge), and stretching over 15 feet (4.5 m). The distance within these lines is 25 feet (7.5 m).

Holding Position Markings

These markings help aircraft operators know where they must stop when approaching a runway designation.

They consist of four yellow lines, two yellow solid lines and the other pair dash-patterned together for six or twelve inches apart depending on what kind it is; this way there’s always an ample distance between them so no two aircraft exiting get too close while waiting at taxiways!

An aircraft crossing a hold short line with red light indicators.

Hold short of runway

The hold short lines on an airport runway are there for a very important reason – to keep planes from accidentally taxiing onto an active runway. The hold short lines are usually located at the point where an airport taxiway meets a runway.

They are always accompanied by airport markings and signs that make it very clear that planes should not cross the line. If a plane were to cross the hold short line, it could unintentionally enter an active runway and cause a serious accident.

That’s why it’s so important for pilots to always follow the hold short instructions and never cross the line unless they are instructed to do so by air traffic control.

Land and Hold Short Operations

Land and Hold Short Operations (LAHSO) – When a landing aircraft is able to accept the controller’s order, it should promptly inform him or her of any problems.

What does this mean for you? It means that if your plane has been told by an air traffic controller not only “hold short” but also when on top of one layover before taking off again then there could potentially be some serious consequences if done wrong!

This type of situation requires much more precision than just flying around until we find ourselves somewhere else far away from our original destination location instead.

LAHSO is a course of action used primarily in the USA. If ATC in the USA used it, the FAA declared its own requirements:

  • A hold short line on the landing runway previous to the intersecting runway or taxiway
  • Holding position signs on the respective runways prior to the runway hold lines.
  • A runway holding position sign with a white engraving on a red background is positioned close by to these holding position markings.

Pilots receive ATC LAHSO requirements in the way “Clear to the land runway ‘AA’. Hold short of runway ‘XX’.” Then they should do either thing, exit runway ‘AA’ or stop at the runway holding position marking before the ‘XX’ runway.

Runway markings with several aircraft following them.

Risks of holding short of the runway instruction

Holding short of runway instruction might produce negative results. There might be multiple aspects for this.

  1. Airport Practices and Configurations,
  2. Flight Crew Errors, and
  3. Controller Errors.

Airport Practices and Configuration

The majority of conflict events by holding short of runway instructions take place at major airports having complicated taxiway layouts and multi-runway operations. Events are divided into groups according to three categories.

  • Intersecting Runways
  • Parallel Runways
  • Runway Configuration

Intersecting runways include many active intersecting runways. They are the major cause of many ground conflicts.

The second most popular runway conflict class is the Parallel Runways, where an aircraft unintentionally crosses or penetrates the active parallel runway after touching down.

The last type is runway configuration. An aircraft penetrates through the active takeoff and landing area during its taxi-out from the gate, which reported the lowest number of ground conflicts.

Flight crew errors

When flight crew error was considered the primary contributor to a problem, several causal patterns were identified.

These categories included communication problems, loss of positional awareness, and distraction from tasks at hand due either to themselves or other factors like equipment failure which may have led to them not being able adequately to compensate for reduced visibility conditions in time before things got really bad.

An IndiGo aircraft following hold short lines as it taxies to the runway.

Controller Errors

Controllers became distracted by other aircraft movements and failed to tell the pilots of one plane that they needed to take off. The controllers then had a near-tie at an intersection because their attention was divided between two places, which caused them not to pay enough attention when it came down to coordinating flights for takeoff timing.


There are also a variety of different signs that you may see on an airport runway. Some of these signs are meant to warn you of potential hazards, while others are simply there to give you information. To make sure that you are always in agreement about where to land, it is important to use holding position signs. These reduce the risk of collision by giving both pilots time and space before they cross each other’s paths or taxiways.

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Jet pilot @NASA

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