How do Pilots align the Airplane towards the runway so perfectly in a "Visual Approach"

The title speaks for itself :smile:

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The runway number corresponds to its approximate heading (add a zero at the end).

So RWAY 18 means a heading of 180°.

For example, you can start by entering the pattern (45° into an imaginary parallel downwind line to the runway), then turn base perpendicular to the runway once you can just about see the runway over your shoulder, and finally turn on final aiming to align to the 180° heading in this example.

In real life, this is why when you intend to do pattern work you can set up your compass to the runway heading before taking off. Alternatively when you fly from A to B, you would look at the chart for airport B which will provide you with all the heading information for entering the pattern, aligning with the runway etc.

Hope this helps!


Thanks a lot!

Although it rounds, of course. For example, at KLAX you have runway 25R, 25L, 24R, and 24L, but all of them pretty much have the same heading of 253º-254º.

@United_IAH you’re welcome!

@Swang007 indeed Sean is right, the runway number only gives you the general direction of the runway, but it’s sufficient to be able do do minor corrections on short final in order to be perfectly aligned. Easier said than done !

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