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One runway but two directions. Why does Edinburgh Airport's arrival and departure route change?

In this section:

Before you read further – please be aware Two Directions isn’t some sort of tribute pop group so do not read on if you are going to be disappointed.

But do read on if you want to understand why one runway can accommodate two directions of travel.

Runway 06/24 is the only runway we have at Edinburgh Airport and it can be the first or last thing people see as they arrive into or depart the capital, but the route your plane takes can change.

Runway picture

What is runway 06 and what is runway 24?

A reminder – one runway, two directions!

When runway 06 is in operation, aircraft arrive from the west, so over West Lothian, and depart to the east and above parts of Fife.

When runway 24 is in operation, aircraft arrive from the east and depart to the west – the mirror image if you like.

Why does the runway change direction?

Wind. That’s it, that’s the twee…answer.

Why? Because where possible aircraft will take off and depart into the wind as this produces the maximum amount of lift as the plane takes off.

And what we see at Edinburgh Airport is a predominantly south-westerly wind which means runway 24 (arriving from the east, departing to the west) is in use approximately 70% of the time.

Our colleagues in the Air Traffic Control tower monitor weather conditions (and yes, consult the windsock too!) to make a decision and normally the runway will change direction when the tailwind goes above 5 knots.

And why are they called runway 06 and runway 24?

Because of their position.

Runway numbers are based on compass bearings and this system is used throughout the industry. As you know, aviation connects the world and pilots will fly to countries across the world, so to help them with their navigation runways will follow this common system.

If you think of a compass then consider that north is 0 or 360 degrees, east is 90 degrees, south is 180 and 270 is west.

Runways will be numbered based on their position so 06/24 means one end of our runway is 60 degrees, the opposite end is 240 degrees – so 180 degrees, also known as a straight line!

Step into the airport noise lab: Monitor volume of passing planes live and learn about aircraft noise rules

So that’s why the runway can be used in two directions.

And unfortunately, because we cannot control the weather we cannot always tell you what runway will be in use on a certain day as things can change quickly, especially if you can have four seasons in one day!