Reader Mail: “What are the numbers on the big board?”

This week’s reader mail took a bit of help from to a ‘ramp monkey’ up at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport (YYZ) … so before I begin I need to say Thank You!

This week’s reader mail comes from Allen Phillip who writes, “I know you frequently fly from Philly and wonder if you know what are the numbers on the big board beside each gate facing the ramp?

Well Allen, as luck would have it, I happened to have a photo of ‘the big board’ you describe, shot a few weeks ago on a flight from Philadelphia (PHL) to Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW). I knew what most of the numbers meant … but mentioned at the opening of this post … I had some help in finding out the numbers I didn’t know.  So lets break this down for you.

The ‘big board’ you are wondering about was installed to assist the ground crew preparing for and dispatching a flight. If you notice the position of the ‘big board’ it is on the right side of the aircraft, same side of the aircraft as the cargo bay doors, not the side of the aircraft passengers board from. This is intentional, because there are more ground crew personal generally operating on the right side of the aircraft.

Some of the information is pretty easy to sort out. The ETA and ETD information is Estimated Time of Arrival and Estimated Time of Departure. Directly to the right of the ETA or ETD time is a count down clock. In the photo below “-10” indicates the flight is 10 minutes from departure.

The second line of information, on the left side, is the flight numbers (Flight 1273), the destination (DFW) and the scheduled departure time (1135).  Below third line references the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU), followed by the aircraft type (E90, or Embraer E-190) … and then comes the information I could not figure out.  The last set of information on the third line is the numbers identifying the aircraft (947).   These numbers correspond to the paperwork of the aircraft and ensuring the right aircraft is being worked on.

The orange colour of the big board was chosen as it is easy to see in all weather conditions, as well as in bright backlit sunlight and in the darkness of the night … not that you asked that part.

Hope this answers your question.

Happy Flying!

(Click Image To Enlarge)


  1. The Delta gates in Atlanta have a similar system – They show the vitals of the inbound flight about to park at that gate (A/C, departure city, ETA, and a countdown to the arrival). Then, when the plane is parked, the display shifts to the plane’s outbound assignment (ETD, countdown to departure).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *