Recently I learned an air traffic control code that hadn't known before. I saw some movement statistics for an airport that included the column "Runway 88." This looks as odd to a pilot as a reference to the 21st hole would to a golfer. (Cue eleven readers telling me that some golf courses go past eighteen holes). Runway numbers correspond to the hundreds and tens digits of the bearing you are on while on or lined up for that runway. There is no compass bearing of 880 degrees, so what was this runway?
I knew they weren't keeping statistics on bar attendance, a la the 19th hole of a golf course, so I checked and found that Runway 88 is the designation for an aircraft just passing through a control zone, but not landing at the airport there. You might pass through if the weather is too poor to go above, or if you've just taken off from another nearby airport and haven't had a chance to climb above this control zone through yet.
Does anyone know how universal that code is, or if there are any more like that? Perhaps air traffic controllers have a black humour that includes a runway designation for runway excursions, or a speculative destination for pilots who don't appear to have it sufficiently together to make it to their filed destination. Probably not, but it amuses me to think of a controller tagging someone up as "runway 73" as a message to her colleague.