Understanding aerodrome markings and signage

Lewis explored the perception and comprehension of pilots relating to airport movement signs in 2010 (1). This was achieved by using a computer simulation to test student pilots’ ability to taxi from one location to another at Canberra Airport using aerodrome movement area guidance signs (MAGS). The driver-centred experimental paradigm approach removed any peripheral operational tasks and possible distractions that could be faced by pilots in real life situations. This enabled MAGS to be tested independently as a contributor to runway incursion issues.

Research results from Lewis are presented in table 1. Students displayed a very good understanding of MAGS based on the testing conducted in a controlled environment with a mean score of 56.6 out of 60 (94.24%).

Table 1. Results from MAGS knowledge and understanding testing
Score (out of 60) Number of Students
<40 0
40-45 1
45-50 1
50-55 3
55-60 13


Research approach

This was an exploratory study to determine the level of knowledge and understanding of Movement Area Guidance Signs (MAGS).


• A convenient sample of 18 third-year Bachelor of Technology (Aviation) students with an average age of 20. The group had flying experience of between 15 and 100 hours. The students were yet to start the flight training component of the degree but as part of the military flight ability assessment program had gained approximately 15 hours of flying experience.

• Of relevance is the fact that the students would have little or no actual experience in using MAGS in a real setting, which would include other factors such as taxiing an aircraft, talking and listening on the radio, cockpit workload and operating at unfamiliar aerodromes. The students also received a briefing before carrying out the test.


• A series of photographs were taken showing the MAGS located at Canberra Airport. The photographs showing aerodrome MAGS were loaded onto a computer – with any peripheral information and visual clues removed.

• A questionnaire in relation to the MAGS was constructed and provided to each subject in order to record results from viewing the photographs. The questionnaire consisted of 15 questions with values of ‘0’ for answers that were clearly wrong or no answer attempted, to ‘4’ for a fully correct answer. The maximum possible score was 60.

• An Airservices Australia aerodrome chart for Canberra Airport.


• Students were recruited to participate in the study.

• The MAGS photographs were loaded onto a computer and ordered to simulate a planned taxi route from a designated point on the aerodrome to another designated point on the aerodrome. Three taxi route simulations were developed.

• Subjects were seated at the computer and briefed on the task. Using the photos of the MAGS and the aerodrome chart subjects were required to describe the taxi route to be taken by interpreting the MAGS and displaying an understanding of them.

• Investigators would test subjects’ understanding and interpretation of the photo and record the results on the questionnaire.

Generalization potential

Given the nature of the study and small sample size and its convenience, the results from this study may not have enough scope for generalisation. Furthermore, analysis of the questionnaire found that the students relied heavily on the aerodrome chart for navigational assistance rather than the MAGS. These results are vastly different to the results of other studies discussed by Lewis and suggests that the use of the aerodrome chart reduced the level of MAGS understanding required.

1. LEWIS Raymond (2010). Pilots’ cognition of airport movement area guidance signs. Aviation
Education and Research Proceedings, vol 2010, pp 60-65. ISSN:1176-0729.

Want to know more?

Aerodrome markings description:
FAA Airport Sign and Markings Guide

Contributors to this page

Todd Kendall


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