What is a Taxi Channel?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 11 October 2019
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Taxi channels are the paths that are utilized by aircraft for taxiing the craft into position for takeoff, or for moving close to an airline terminal. Channels of this type are common with water airports as well as other types of landing strips. The taxi channel itself is often defined with the use of a series of lights that make it easy for the pilot to identify the course of the path at night and in various types of weather.

The main function of a taxi channel is to make sure that an aircraft can move into the right position to successfully take off. Channels are especially important at busy airports, since the paths help guide numerous aircraft into position safely, allowing each one to move into position in turn, and prevent congestion on the landing strip. From this perspective, the channels function as a means of managing the traffic so that flights can be ready to leave on time, without fear of accidents taking place on the ground.

Along with assisting aircraft in leaving an airport, a taxi channel is also helpful once the craft lands. By following the designated channel, it is possible for the craft to taxi to the right gate without incident. This allows passengers to disembark safely at the terminal door, while also protecting them from cold, rain, or any other weather conditions that may be unfavorable.


Key to the success of any taxi channel is the use of channel lights. These ground lights are arranged along each side of the taxi channel, effectively marking the path for any pilot using the channel. In most airports, these lights are set to constantly blink in succession when a craft is designated to make use of the path.

Taxi channel paths are found in airports of just about any type and size. Effective on land, the channels also help to keep landing and taking off at water airports orderly and relatively safe for all concerned. Along with major airports, taxi channels are also found at private airstrips, local airports that cater to smaller planes, and even landing strips that are associated with flight schools. While there is some difference of opinion on when channels first developed as a standard part of airport configuration, most historians agree that the concept of the channel as well as the use of lights to define the pathway was common by the middle of the twentieth century.


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