You’ve probably been there. You’re sitting in the window seat and your plane is taxiing toward the runway and on the way there are signs by the sides of the lanes with letters and numbers which you have not idea what mean.
Then you turn in to the runway and (although you may not be able to see this depending on where in the place you are sitting) and at the start of the runway there giant white numbers and letters painted across its surface.
This is the runway heading or, simply put, the name of that specific runway.
The runway heading consists of two numbers between 1 and 36. This means the heading is based on the compass directions with 360 representing north, 90 – east, 180 – south, 270 – west, 360. The numbers are rounded to the nearest ten to make it simpler and the last digit dropped so that there are always only two. If the number consists of one digit, 0 (zero) is written in front of it to make it a two-digit one.
At the end of the heading number there is a letter, L, R (or where there are three runways, C). These stand for Left runway, Right runway or Centre runway.
Every runway has two ends. so most runways have two separate numbers depending on whether planes are taking off or landing.
So if the in-flight magazine isn’t doing it for you, see if you can figure out in direction you’re taking off next time you fly.
Source: BAA Flight School