Did You Know How Pilots Follow the Lines On the Ground?


You have got on board and with the rest of the passengers are waiting for take-off. The aircraft starts rolling on the taxiway. Therefore, have you ever wondered how pilots manage to follow the lines covering a taxiway at an airport?

Safe and coordinated movement of the aircraft is important and there are different tools as well as methods helping pilots to navigate on the taxiway. Firstly, there is a specific marking on the ground. There is a yellow line marking the middle of the taxiway – pilots always hold the aircraft nose wheel on this line. They use the same method as the car drivers who keep staying centered in the line of the road – pilots see the taxiway markings ahead of them and can infer where they are under the aircraft. It is all about knowing the aircraft and where these markings should be relative to cues pilots have in the aircraft to keep it on the centerline.

Some aircraft, like the Airbus A350, A380 or Boeing 777, have cameras mounted on or near the nose gear that can provide video to the cockpit. This camera called Ground Maneuvering Camera System (GMCS) enables pilots to taxi more precisely.

When taxiing, aircraft moves slowly to reduce the risk of a nose wheel damage. Slow speed also ensures a quick stop if necessary. Taxi speed is usually from 10 to 20 knots (18–37km/h) and it normally does not increase with taxi length. Some planes and operators have maximum taxi speeds posted.