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Clarify that airport features shall be tagged as ref=01R/19L (for runways) and ref=A (for taxiways).

Creideiki 16:13, 1 January 2009 (UTC)


Looking at the data, there seems to be no consensus at the moment as to how airport features should be named.

The most commonly used formats, in decreasing order of frequency, seems to be:

  1. name=01R/19L
  2. ref=01R/19L
  3. Unformatted nonsense (e.g. name="Runway 01/19", name="01/19 grass" or ref="1/19")
  4. ref=01R;19L

The wiki page for Tag:aeroway=runway seems to favor ref=01R;19L, by referring to Key:ref which in turn references Faq#What_shall_I_do_for_roads_that_have_multiple_values_for_a_tag.3F.

My experience (noting that I've only been flying for ~2 years and visited a single-digit number of airports) is that the single string "01R/19L" is used when referring to the physical structure on the ground, but the divided "01R and "19L" (which should, as per Faq#What_shall_I_do_for_roads_that_have_multiple_values_for_a_tag.3F above, be tagged as "01R;19L") is used when discussing anything else - approach lights, administrative boundaries on runway use, traffic control clearances, et cetera. However, splitting the designation in this way presents the problem that the two logical runways do not always share the same physical strutcure. It is in fact a common situation that a piece in one end of the (physical) runway is only a part of the (logical) runway that ends there, not the one that begins there (see wikipedia:Displaced_threshold).

Runway numbers are always referred to with two digits and an optional relative location (left/center/right).

Seeing as runways usually don't have human-readable names, it seems natural to treat the designations as refs.

Creideiki 16:13, 1 January 2009 (UTC)

I would favour ref=01R;19L and in rare cases name=Human name of landing strip (I've heard of a private air field where the runway was referred to as "Stripa" meaning "the Strip") --Skippern 17:26, 1 January 2009 (UTC)

Which way the length and width of runway is tagged?

  • length
  • width


  • runway.length
  • runway.width

User 5359 17:40, 24 October 2010 (BST)

Acquiring data

Let's see if I did this right...

wget -O runway.osm '*[aeroway=runway]'
dos2unix runway.osm
grep -c 'k=.ref.' runway.osm
grep 'k=.ref.' runway.osm | cut -c21- | tr -d "'>" | sed -e 's,^\(.*\)/,\1,g' | grep -c '^[0-9][0-9][RL]*/[0-9][0-9][RL]*$'
grep 'k=.ref.' runway.osm | cut -c21- | tr -d "'>" | sed -e 's,^\(.*\)/,\1,g' | grep -c '^[0-9][0-9][RL]*;[0-9][0-9][RL]*$'
ref=[something else]
grep 'k=.ref.' runway.osm | cut -c21- | tr -d "'>" | sed -e 's,^\(.*\)/,\1,g' | grep -v '^[0-9][0-9][RL]*/[0-9][0-9][RL]*$' | grep -cv '^[0-9][0-9][RL]*;[0-9][0-9][RL]*$'
grep -c '' runway.osm
grep '' runway.osm | cut -c21- | tr -d "'>" | sed -e 's,^\(.*\)/,\1,g' | grep -c '^[0-9][0-9][RL]*/[0-9][0-9][RL]*$'
grep '' runway.osm | cut -c21- | tr -d "'>" | sed -e 's,^\(.*\)/,\1,g' | grep -c '^[0-9][0-9][RL]*;[0-9][0-9][RL]*$'
name=[something else]
grep '' runway.osm | cut -c21- | tr -d "'>" | sed -e 's,^\(.*\)/,\1,g' | grep -v '^[0-9][0-9][RL]*/[0-9][0-9][RL]*$' | grep -cv '^[0-9][0-9][RL]*;[0-9][0-9][RL]*$'

Runways as areas

Many runways are wide enough that perhaps they should be drawn as areas. Same with taxiways, especially to preserve the shape of what's on the ground. Is there a preferred way to do this and allow naming the runways and taxiways simultaneously?--Elyk 05:34, 25 March 2009 (UTC)

Yes there is a preferred way of how to map them. Just map the centreline of the runway/taxsway and then map the gras (or sand) between them as area. AssetBurned 02:50, 18 January 2010 (UTC)
I have seen runways created as areas. Is there a good reason why these should be converted back to linear ways? Personally it would seem to be adding detail to the map to allow runways and taxiways to be areas now that we have excellent aerial photography. PeterIto 00:27, 15 December 2011 (UTC)
My impression, from reading this wiki, is that we should map both the area and the way, in the same way as for example riverbanks/rivers. The way is used to e.g. indicate a direction, which supplies additional information. However, if this is the purpose, I think it should be written more clearly in the wiki... I had to look at the Munich example in order to understand whether a way, an area or both should be used. Any comments? anderfo 08:19, 15 April 2015 (UTC)

The page was changed some time ago to suggest that runways can be mapped either as polygons or as linear ways without previous discussion. I now changed this back. Mapping runways as linear ways is established mapping practice and there is no informational gain from mapping them as a four node polygon compared to a two node way plus width tag so this practice can be considered as mapping for renderers that render runway polygons but do not consider the width tag when rendering runways mapped as linear ways.--Imagico (talk) 11:53, 20 September 2015 (UTC)

I think a way to cleanly deal with this ongoing tagging could be to extend the area:highway proposal ( ) to include area:aeroway (such as area:aeroway=runway and area:aeroway=taxiway). That proposal overall is an attempt to allow two dimensional mapping of roads as areas, to show their full extent on a map rather than (just) as a rendered line, but to avoid clashing tags with established drawn ways. It also would make implicitly clear that tags (width, etc. for aeroway features) belong on the way and not the area: drawn area. If extended in this way, it would make tagging areas as aeroway=* pointedly 'wrong' but provide alternative tagging that allows the information of the areas themselves to remain, rendered or not. Skybunny (talk) 21:45, 20 May 2018 (UTC)
Your change has been reverted. Most comments above prefer to tag as way and optionally in addition as area. So I put that on the page.--Jojo4u (talk) 16:08, 23 September 2015 (UTC)
Note this does not fully reflect current mapping practice - while area mapping is more common in combination with line mapping there are a significant number of runways mapped as area only. Mappers could rightfully consider double mapping a violation of One feature, one OSM element. For double mapping there is also no clarity which of the objects should receive supplementary tags.--Imagico (talk) 16:43, 23 September 2015 (UTC)
I see many people create features duplication ("because I need it" I've got as an answer some time ago ː-O ). When a runway is wide enough, I draw it as an area. In real world a runway could be wide from few meters, for the model aircraft runways, to 80 meters; draw a runway compulsory as a way is a bad way to represent this feature. Sometimes happens that a runway I drawn as a way is downgraded to a way, why? --Ale Zena IT (talk) 09:30, 1 March 2021 (UTC)
The same argument could be made for mapping all roads as areas instead of linear ways. In both cases area:highway=* or area:aeroway=runway is a reasonable option for mapping the area - though in the case of a fixed-width, straight runway it is not really necessary: the geometry of the centerline plus the width provides the same information. --Jeisenbe (talk) 05:23, 2 March 2021 (UTC)

Emergency runways

A part of a normal road might be used as an emergency runway, how should this be tagged. For example this part of road (41) has been made extra wide so planes can land. How should this be tagged ? --Onion 14:36, 7 December 2009 (UTC)

hm good point maybe we both should suggest a new tag. aeroway=highway_strip in reference to this wikipedia article. AssetBurned 02:42, 18 January 2010 (UTC)

Disused runways?

How should I tag a runway that is no longer available for landings. I know that there are runways with blast off areas (mostly airports with a lot of sand) or even with extensions which only specific aircrafts are allowed to used (e.g. in Bremen EDDW). But what should I do with an runway that is now closed? Or which is partly closed? For now i use "closed" as name for that runway but that is highly confusing if only a section of the runway is closed. cu AssetBurned 02:47, 18 January 2010 (UTC)

--→ disused=yes ? unsigned
If only part of the runway is not available then split the way and mark the relevant part with disused=yes. Use surface=* if the surface varies. Not sure how you would specify certain types of aircraft only. I suggest you put your information into a note=* and leave someone else to figure out how to code it. PeterIto 00:23, 15 December 2011 (UTC)
disused:aeroway=runway superseded disused=yes. If the runway is permantly closed and has other uses (e.g. recreation) now, highway=* sound appropriate.--Jojo4u (talk) 11:29, 16 April 2016 (UTC)


This section currently seems to recommend two different and incompatible methods to map the lifecycle of runways: the aeroway=proposed+proposed=runway for proposed ones but the the lifecycle prefix for abandoned and disused ones. Should that be unified somehow? There are ~1600 abandoned:aeroway and disused:aeroway vs ~35 construction,proposed=runway RicoZ (talk) 14:10, 13 May 2016 (UTC)


I found this undocummented tag at Miami Int'l Airport yesterday. What's being done is extending or splitting the way runway and adding runway=blast_pad to the blast area at the end(s) of the runway. My concerns, which I expressed to the author of the changeset containing this tag, are as follows:

  • It breaks the semantics of aeroway=runway: A [W] runway is a "rectangular area on a[n] aerodrome prepared for the landing and takeoff of aircraft". Blast pad sections, while part of the runway infrastructure, fail to fulfil the basic function of a runway as aircraft aren't to land or take off in these areas (except in an emergency). An [W] Engineered materials arrestor system would be another example of runway features that extend from but are most definitely not part of the area for landing/take-off area (the runway). Secondly, the lighting systems applied at the edge between runway and blast pad are called Runway Threshold / End Lighting, meaning that anything beyond this point is not a runway for all intents and purposes.
  • It breaks One feature, one OSM element: A runway with two blast pads mapped in this fashion (i.e. aeroway=runway + runway=blast_pad) will cause queries to overstate the number of runway features. In having to consider contiguous segments of runway, this tagging more closely resembles that of roads, except the wiki article doesn't currently mention these semantics.
  • It can break length=*: At least in the examples I encountered, the runway was split and the length tag retained as-is, meaning that, in the end, there were three aeroway=runway segments with the full length of the runway in each.
  • It could be interpreted to be tagging for the renderer.

It would be great if what can come out of this is some discussion aimed at a bit of consensus and subsequently more content to the How to Map section of the Wiki, more specifically where an aeroway=runway feature should being and end wrt. runway markings (i.e. make explicit reference to special cases: displaced thresholds, taxiways aligned with the runway & blast pads for more consistent mapping). Needless to say I am of the opinion that these sections aren't runways (they're not designed for landing or take-off) and should therefore not be tagged with aeroway=runway. If the current tagging is supported by the community, then please document the semantics so that it is clear to (any?) consumers.

The response I got from the changeset author mentioned a proposal about the tag, but I wasn't able to find any such proposal. I also got "osm has more severe errors than this one" in the answer from the author; hopefully there are better arguments in favor of using that tagging :)

--Carciofo (talk) 17:57, 5 September 2017 (UTC)

I looked up variations of blast_pad on taginfo. The generally accepted and documented term for these areas is a stopway, and use of the term aeroway=stopway far outnumbers that of 'blast_pad' or 'overrun', which are the other two terms in the wild that are used for it. I have documented the (as of now over 500) uses of aeroway=stopway, all done as ways. Skybunny (talk) 21:51, 20 May 2018 (UTC)
One issue in favor of blast_pad is that in the US FAA airport diagrams, blast pads are often explicitly diagrammed and given dimensions. Whereas I have never seen anything listed as a stopway. In addition there are Engineered materials arrestor systems (EMAS) that are diagrammed by the FAA and would fit more semantically as stopways. --DoctorSpeck (talk) 17:28, 21 February 2019 (UTC)

Remote runways - little to no services

Remote runways may not justify the application of aerodrome tags as they lack the service facilities. Typically they are unpaved, might have a wind sock and some white cones to make the boundaries. I see no reason not to use the tagging of runway without aerodrome tags. Warin61 (talk) 02:07, 16 October 2017 (UTC)

By definition "aerodrome" is A defined area on land or water (including any buildings, installations and equipment) intended to be used either wholly or in part for the arrival, departure and surface movement of aircraft (ICAO ANNEX 14 1.1), This definition is independent of having facilities, pavement, grass or water or how as defined his boundaries. I think that mapping and tagging or not this aerodromes depends more on the time that collaborators can devote to the project, than on the relevance of them.--Mnts (talk) 00:22, 16 November 2017 (UTC)
No. Aviation route planners create routes, consisting of aerodromes, navaids, visual reference points, and perhaps more; but never runways. So, in order to be useful to route planning, even the remotest of runways should be associated with some kind of aerodrome. Basically this would be aeroway=aerodrome, but for very basic terrains there is the alternative aeroway=airstrip. Jan olieslagers (talk) 12:07, 3 June 2023 (UTC)

Suggestion to tag disused runways as a meadow

I've removed the following sentence from the Lifecycle section:

It has been suggested to additionally tag disused or abandoned runways with eg natural=meadow so they are rendered.

This is clearly tagging for the renderer. Since no sourcing was provided as to where this was "suggested" either, I can only take the statement at face value without considering any background or related information. --Carciofo (talk) 09:25, 11 January 2018 (UTC)

Runways for RC model aircraft

How to tag (typically very small) runways specifically for remote control model aircraft?

Reuse usage=* ?

—Preceding unsigned comment added by Gorm (talkcontribs) 21:53, 16 May 2018‎

See sport=model_aerodrome. --Carciofo (talk) 17:30, 28 August 2018 (UTC)
My very personal opinion that it is best to tag the aera of the field as described in sport=model_aerodrome, then optionally add the runway(s) just like any other runway. Jan olieslagers (talk) 12:52, 3 October 2021 (UTC)

Runway width

For background, please see:
The question was raised as to what "width" refers to, as the OP had data saying that the runway is 40m wide, but measuring it on imagery showed only ~22m.
I posed the question to a pilot I know, whose full response is in the list message, but TLDR (he is Australian so there may be some change to this internationally?):

There are 2 separate measurements Runway Width (RW) and Runway Strip Width (RWS). RW is the width of the bitumen / mown grass, RWS includes the clear verges, allowing for wing overhang, often marked by white cones.

So, I'm suggesting that we define "width" as the RW (bitumen / mown).

Should we also have a separate "width:strip=" (?) for the cleared RWS? --Fizzie41 (talk) 03:42, 28 January 2021 (UTC)

It might be a bit strong to say that we can "define" a tag to mean something. But I believe that you are correct that most mappers are using the width=* tag on aeroway=runway for the width of the physical runway surface: in the case of a paved runway this is almost always the width of the actual pavement. For an unpaved runway the width is less clear is some cases, but if there is a gravel surface or other change in surface this is usually what is mapped. For grass runways it can be quite difficult to map an accurate width, in my experience mapping many small grass airstrips in Indonesia. --Jeisenbe (talk) 07:30, 28 January 2021 (UTC)

I should like to question this phrase in the article: <quote>Runway widths are usually standardized, typical values are 60 m, 45 m, 30 m, 23 m or 18 m. Only use other values in special cases.</quote> A licensed private pilot, I have never seen or heard of any such standardisation. In my opinion, this phrase should be removed. Jan olieslagers (talk) 12:46, 3 October 2021 (UTC)

Added in - @TangoEast: - what you meant by that? "widths are usually standardized, typical values are 60 m, 45 m, 30 m, 23 m or 18 m. Only use other values in special cases." seems to not needed even it would be true as actual width should be tagged anyway Mateusz Konieczny (talk) 13:39, 3 October 2021 (UTC)
I have now removed this phrase. Jan olieslagers (talk) 16:28, 31 January 2022 (UTC)

aeroway=airstrip tag

Especially in Europe, some mappers have insisted on using aeroway=airstrip as an alternative for aeroway=aerodreme, for those fields that have little or no facilities and/or are not available year-round or seem otherwise little noticeable. After some doubts and discussion, I now adhere to that practice. For example, most ULM fields in France are so tagged, as are some of their Italian counterparts, the "campi di volo". I have however also come across instances where "aeroway=airstrip" was used to indicate a runway rather than an aerodrome. This is understandable enough, since many small strips consist of nothing more than a runway. Still, for the sake of consistency, I think every aviation terrain should have at least a tag to describe it as such, and another tag for each runway. I have been mapping quite a few airfields in Europe in this way, and have had few comments and still less protests. Mind you, this could be considered as "mapping for the renderer", since "aeroway=airstrip" will not render. Any comments? Jan olieslagers (talk) 12:46, 3 October 2021 (UTC)

I'm struggling with this same issue at the moment. I've seen several solutions proposed:
  1. Ensure an aerodrome or airstrip is mapped for every runway (your solution)
    • Pros: Consistency; doesn't require rework of tagging schemes
    • Cons: Requires drawing a closed way that duplicates the runway way; mapping more than what is on the ground
  2. Allow standalone runway
    • Pros: Minimizes redundancy; mapping only what is on the ground
    • Cons: Requires rework of tagging scheme to allow aerodrome tags on runway
  3. Allow airstrips without runways
    • Pros: Minimizes redundancy; mapping only what is on the ground
    • Cons: Would replace the very popular "runway" with a little-used feature
  4. Deprecate airstrip and use descriptive tags on runway (Note: this not mutually exclusive to the other solutions)
    • Pros: Simplifies the clearly confusing aeroway domain
    • Cons: Removes what some might consider a qualitatively distinct feature

All things considered, I believe I'm partial to #2 and #4 and see #3 as an awful solution. Do you feel the above points are an adequate characterization? If not, what would you change? We also might consider opening this up to discussion on a different platform to get more opinions. --Joel Amos (talk) 21:41, 4 October 2021 (UTC)

Thanks for extensive and well-thought reply! I remain in favour of your #1, with the comments that
  • 1 just like an aeroway=aerodrome, an aeroway=airstrip can be a node as well as being a line/area
  • 2 there is nothing against two areas (the strip and the runway) having the same outline, there are many more occurrences.

Jan olieslagers (talk) 04:31, 5 October 2021 (UTC)

How do we work it for private airstrips, which may be no more than a strip of mown grass, or cleared dirt, with absolutely no facilities? --Fizzie41 (talk) 05:57, 5 October 2021 (UTC)

I have often mapped the runway as aeroway=runway plus a node with aeroway=airstrip. Be aware of the confusing term "private" - in ICAO terminology, every aerodrome that is not "public" (i.e. bound to published hours of operation and levels of service) is "private", this is (for one example) the case for almost all recreational fields in my BE country. It does not make them "private" in the common meaning of the word. The Belgian AIP recently introduced the classification "personal" for fields only open to the owner/operator, and that seems a good idea. Jan olieslagers (talk) 18:30, 24 October 2021 (UTC)

@Jan Note, though, that area runways are officially discouraged on the wiki, as are linear aerodromes. So in order to achieve #1 without drawing an area around the runway line (which strikes me as detestable haha), the only solution is to use a node of the runway to tag the aerodrome (ideally the midpoint) and a second overlapping line for airstrips. I have mixed feelings about this but could be convinced if others thought this was a good idea. My inclination, though, is that that tagging is unintuitive and why not just tag the runway itself, which already has good use of aerodrome tags like faa? Joel Amos (talk) 14:03, 5 October 2021 (UTC)

Yes, I know that area runways are "officially" discouraged - but I firmly question that principle, as well as wondering about the "officially" bit. There is an analogy between "way=" and "aeroway=" tags, of course, and it is a neat idea; but while ways (and railways) need to be lines, so that they can be grouped into relations representing routes or road numbers, there is no such need for runways. I can see no solid argument to not map a runway as an area - and I reject the practice of mapping a runway twice, once as "aeroway=runway" and a second time as "area:aeroway=runway" - that is waste of resources, and a potential source of confusion. Each element in the landscape - such as a runway - should be mentioned one and exactly one times on our database. Jan olieslagers (talk) 18:24, 24 October 2021 (UTC)
Unfortunately both area and linear representation of a runway excel in capturing a feature of runways that is really hard to achieve with the other variant.
Way representation:
  • Runway incline (This often differs along the length of the runway)
  • Direction of the runway
  • Capturing crossing centerline location, e.g. for connecting taxiways or crossing runways
  • Position of perpendicular crossing features (holding position, arresting gear, threshold)
  • Distinct runway segments and their orientation (displaced threshold, stopway, blast pads, overruns)
Area representation:
  • Non-rectangular shape of the runway prepared surface, e.g. turnpads, curve smoothening when runways are crossing or taxiways are connecting
  • Including runway shoulders and their width
In OSM it's already practice with highway squares to capture them both as linear ways representing the topology and using area objects capturing the topography (e.g. outline of the square). I capturing runways using one linear aeroway=runway object and another area area:aeroway=runway object combines the best of each strengths to allow capturing the reality on the ground. --Claudius (talk) 09:51, 29 May 2022 (UTC)
Ps leisure=track has this issue too. --- Kovposch (talk) 12:40, 29 May 2022 (UTC)

"Each element in the landscape...should be mentioned one and exactly one times in our database."

I agree wholeheartedly, which is why I think approach #1 is not the way to go. Joel Amos (talk) 21:26, 24 October 2021 (UTC)

You have a point there, but there are several counterexamples. For example a restaurant will often be entered twice: a way for the building plus a node for the amenity. An aerodrome is a possible destination in a route-planner - a runway isn't. Also, most airstrips have one single runway (and often nothing more), a few have several. Jan olieslagers (talk) 15:42, 31 January 2022 (UTC)
In this case restaurant is represented once, building represents building housing restaurant - not restaurant itself Mateusz Konieczny (talk) 16:02, 31 January 2022 (UTC)
And in precisely the same way "aeroway=airstrip" represents the aviation terrain that includes the runway. Jan olieslagers (talk) 16:08, 31 January 2022 (UTC)

Runway properties

How about some additional tags to indicate navigation programs available to a certain runway? The only one I see so far is if it is lit or not. but not if it features ALS PAPI ILS and other listed here --Nickvet419 This user is member of the wiki team of OSMFlag of United States. 12:10, 31 January 2022 (UTC)

Which specific navigation programs are you thinking about, and can they be verified on the ground, or would they need to be imported (and kept in sync) with some official database? JesseFW (talk) 15:30, 31 January 2022 (UTC)
That has been stated, at least as a list of examples. And to an insider, the presence of such landing aids can be verified at sight, on site :) ; but it is not possible to assess the activity state of an ILS visually. Jan olieslagers (talk) 15:38, 31 January 2022 (UTC)
Quite confusing to speak of "navigation program" - perhaps "landing aid" would be a clearer term. That said: it could be done, but I consider this too technical and too specialised information. It is better left to specialised media, such as Jan olieslagers (talk) 15:38, 31 January 2022 (UTC)