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An airport is an aerodrome with extended facilities, mostly for commercial air transport.[1][2] Airports often have facilities to store and maintain aircraft, and a control tower. An airport consists of a landing area, which comprises an aerially accessible open space including at least one operationally active surface such as a runway for a plane to take off[3] or a helipad,[4] and often includes adjacent utility buildings such as control towers, hangars[5] and terminals. Larger airports may have airport aprons, taxiway bridges, air traffic control centres, passenger facilities such as restaurants and lounges, and emergency services. In some countries, the US in particular, they also typically have one or more fixed-base operators, serving general aviation.

An airport solely serving helicopters is called a heliport. An airport for use by seaplanes and amphibious aircraft is called a seaplane base. Such a base typically includes a stretch of open water for takeoffs and landings, and seaplane docks for tying-up.

An international airport has additional facilities for customs and passport control as well as incorporating all the aforementioned elements. Such airports rank among the most complex and largest of all built typologies with 15 of the top 50 buildings by floor area being airport terminals.[6]

Terminology


The terms aerodrome, airfield, and airstrip may also be used to refer to airports, and the terms heliport, seaplane base, and STOLport refer to airports dedicated exclusively to helicopters, seaplanes, or short take-off and landing aircraft.

In colloquial use in certain environments, the terms airport and aerodrome are often interchanged. However, in general, the term airport may imply or confer a certain stature upon the aviation facility that other aerodromes may not have achieved. In some jurisdictions, airport is a legal term of art reserved exclusively for those aerodromes certified or licensed as airports by the relevant national aviation authority after meeting specified certification criteria or regulatory requirements.[7]

That is to say, all airports are aerodromes, but not all aerodromes are airports. In jurisdictions where there is no legal distinction between aerodrome and airport, which term to use in the name of an aerodrome may be a commercial decision. In United States technical/legal usage, landing area is used instead of aerodrome, and airport means "a landing area used regularly by aircraft for receiving or discharging passengers or cargo".[8]

Management


Smaller or less-developed airfields, which represent the vast majority, often have a single runway shorter than 1,000 m (3,300 ft).

In the United States, the minimum dimensions for dry, hard landing fields are defined by the FAR Landing And Takeoff Field Lengths. These include considerations for safety margins during landing and takeoff.

The longest public-use runway in the world is at Qamdo Bamda Airport in China. It has a length of 5,500 m (18,045 ft). The world's widest paved runway is at Ulyanovsk Vostochny Airport in Russia and is 105 m (344 ft) wide.

As of 2009, the CIA stated that there were approximately 44,000 "... airports or airfields recognizable from the air" around the world, including 15,095 in the US, the US having the most in the world.[10][11]

Most of the world's large airports are owned by local, regional, or national government bodies who then lease the airport to private corporations who oversee the airport's operation. For example, in the United Kingdom the state-owned British Airports Authority originally operated eight of the nation's major commercial airports – it was subsequently privatized in the late 1980s, and following its takeover by the Spanish Ferrovial consortium in 2006, has been further divested and downsized to operating just Heathrow now. Germany's Frankfurt Airport is managed by the quasi-private firm Fraport. While in India GMR Group operates, through joint ventures, Indira Gandhi International Airport and Rajiv Gandhi International Airport. Bengaluru International Airport and Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport are controlled by GVK Group. The rest of India's airports are managed by the Airports Authority of India. In Pakistan nearly all civilian airports are owned and operated by the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority except for Sialkot International Airport which has the distinction of being the first privately owned public airport in Pakistan and South Asia.

In the United States, commercial airports are generally operated directly by government entities or government-created airport authorities (also known as port authorities), such as the Los Angeles World Airports authority that oversees several airports in the Greater Los Angeles area, including Los Angeles International Airport.

In Canada, the federal authority, Transport Canada, divested itself of all but the remotest airports in 1999/2000.

Many U.S. airports still lease part or all of their facilities to outside firms, who operate functions such as retail management and parking.

Despite the reluctance to privatize airports in the US (despite the FAA sponsoring a privatization program since 1996), the government-owned, contractor-operated (GOCO) arrangement is the standard for the operation of commercial airports in the rest of the world.

The Airport & Airway Trust Fund (AATF) was created by the Airport and Airway Development in 1970 which finances aviation programs in the United States.[14] Airport Improvement Program (AIP), Facilities and Equipment (F&E), and Research, Engineering, and Development (RE&D) are the three major accounts of Federal Aviation Administration which are financed by the AATF, as well as pays for the FAA's Operation and Maintenance (O&M) account.[15] The funding of these accounts are dependent on the taxes the airports generate of revenues. Passenger ticket s, fuel, and cargo tax are the taxes that are paid by the passengers and airlines help fund these accounts.[16]

Airports revenues are divided into three major parts: Aeronautical revenue, Non-aeronautical revenue, and Non-operating revenue. Aeronautical revenue makes up 56%, Non-aeronautical revenue makes up 40%, and Non-operating revenue makes up 4% of the total revenue of airports.[17]

Aeronautical revenue are generated through the airline rents, landing fees, passenger service fees, parking fees and hangar fees.

Non-aeronautical revenue is gained through things other than aircraft operations.

Airports are divided into landside and airside areas.

Facilities


A terminal is a building with passenger facilities. Small airports have one terminal. Large ones often have multiple terminals, though some large airports like Amsterdam Airport Schiphol still have one terminal. The terminal has a series of gates, which provide passengers with access to the plane.

The following facilities are essential for departing passengers:

The following facilities are essential for arriving passengers:

  • Passport control (international arrivals only)
  • Baggage reclaim facilities, often in the form of a carousel
  • Customs (international arrivals only)
  • A landside meeting place

For both sets of passengers, there must be a link between the passenger facilities and the aircraft, such as jet bridges or airstairs. There also needs to be a baggage handling system, to transport baggage from the baggage drop-off to departing planes, and from arriving planes to the baggage reclaim.

The area where the aircraft park to load passengers and baggage is known as an apron or ramp (or incorrectly, "the tarmac").

Airports with international flights have customs and immigration facilities. However, as some countries have agreements that allow travel between them without customs and immigrations, such facilities are not a definitive need for an international airport. International flights often require a higher level of physical security, although in recent years, many countries have adopted the same level of security for international and domestic travel.

"Floating airports]" are being designed which could be located out at sea and which would use designs such as pneumatic stabilized platform technology.

Airport security normally requires baggage checks, metal screenings of individual persons, and rules against any object that could be used as a weapon.

Most major airports provide commercial outlets for products and services.

Apart from major fast food chains, some airport restaurants offer regional cuisine specialties for those in transit so that they may sample local food or culture without leaving the airport.[26]

Some airport structures include on-site hotels built within or attached to a terminal building. Airport hotels have grown popular due to their convenience for transient passengers and easy accessibility to the airport terminal. Many airport hotels also have agreements with airlines to provide overnight lodging for displaced passengers.

Major airports in such countries as Russia and Japan offer miniature sleeping units within the airport that are available for rent by the hour.

Airports may also contain premium and VIP services.

Sometimes these premium services will be offered to a non-premium passenger if the airline has made a mistake in handling of the passenger, such as unreasonable delays or mishandling of checked baggage.

Airline lounges frequently offer free or reduced cost food, as well as alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.

Airlines sometimes operate multiple lounges within the one airport terminal allowing ultra-premium customers, such as first class customers, additional services, which are not available to other premium customers.

In addition to people, airports move cargo around the clock.

Cargo Terminal Facilities are areas where international airports export cargo has to be stored after customs clearance and prior to loading on the aircraft.

Every cargo terminal has a landside and an airside.

Airports require parking lots, for passengers who may leave the cars at the airport for a long period of time. Large airports will also have car rental firms, taxi ranks, bus stops and sometimes a train station.

Many large airports are located near railway trunk routes for seamless connection of multimodal transport, for instance Frankfurt Airport, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, London Heathrow Airport, Tokyo Haneda Airport, Tokyo Narita Airport, London Gatwick Airport and London Stansted Airport. It is also common to connect an airport and a city with rapid transit, light rail lines or other non-road public transport systems. Some examples of this would include the AirTrain JFK at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Link Light Rail that runs from the heart of downtown Seattle to Seattle–Tacoma International Airport, and the Silver Line T at Boston's Logan International Airport by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA). Such a connection lowers risk of missed flights due to traffic congestion. Large airports usually have access also through controlled-access highways ('freeways' or 'motorways') from which motor vehicles enter either the departure loop or the arrival loop.

The distances passengers need to move within a large airport can be substantial.

Airport operations


There are three types of surface that aircraft operate on:

  • Runways, for takeoff and landing
  • Taxiways, where planes "taxi" (transfer to and from a runway)
  • Apron or ramp: a surface where planes are parked, loaded, unloaded or refuelled.

Air traffic control (ATC) is the task of managing aircraft movements and making sure they are safe, orderly and expeditious. At the largest airports, air traffic control is a series of highly complex operations that requires managing frequent traffic that moves in all three dimensions.

A "towered" or "controlled" airport has a control tower where the air traffic controllers are based. Pilots are required to maintain two-way radio communication with the controllers, and to acknowledge and comply with their instructions. A "non-towered" airport has no operating control tower and therefore two-way radio communications are not required, though it is good operating practice for pilots to transmit their intentions on the airport's common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF) for the benefit of other aircraft in the area. The CTAF may be a Universal Integrated Community (UNICOM), MULTICOM, Flight Service Station (FSS), or tower frequency.

The majority of the world's airports are small facilities without a tower.

Air traffic control responsibilities at airports are usually divided into at least two main areas: ground and tower, though a single controller may work both stations. The busiest airports may subdivide responsibilities further, with clearance delivery, apron control, and/or other specialized ATC stations.

Ground control is responsible for directing all ground traffic in designated "movement areas", except the traffic on runways. This includes planes, baggage trains, snowplows, grass cutters, fuel trucks, stair trucks, airline food trucks, conveyor belt vehicles and other vehicles. Ground Control will instruct these vehicles on which taxiways to use, which runway they will use (in the case of planes), where they will park, and when it is safe to cross runways. When a plane is ready to takeoff it will be turned over to Tower Control. Conversely, after a plane has landed it will depart the runway and be "handed over" from Tower to Ground Control.

Tower control is responsible for aircraft on the runway and in the controlled airspace immediately surrounding the airport. Tower controllers may use radar to locate an aircraft's position in three-dimensional space, or they may rely on pilot position reports and visual observation. They coordinate the sequencing of aircraft in the traffic pattern and direct aircraft on how to safely join and leave the circuit. Aircraft which are only passing through the airspace must also contact Tower Control to be sure they remain clear of other traffic.

At all airports the use of a traffic pattern (often called a traffic circuit outside the U.S.) is possible. They may help to assure smooth traffic flow between departing and arriving aircraft. There is no technical need within modern commercial aviation for performing this pattern, provided there is no queue. And due to the so-called SLOT-times, the overall traffic planning tend to assure landing queues are avoided. If for instance an aircraft approaches runway 17 (which has a heading of approx. 170 degrees) from the north (coming from 360/0 degrees heading towards 180 degrees), the aircraft will land as fast as possible by just turning 10 degrees and follow the glidepath, without orbit the runway for visual reasons, whenever this is possible. For smaller piston engined airplanes at smaller airfields without ILS equipment, things are very different though.

Generally, this pattern is a circuit consisting of five "legs" that form a rectangle (two legs and the runway form one side, with the remaining legs forming three more sides).

At controlled airports, a circuit can be in place but is not normally used.

There are a number of aids, both visual and electronic, though not at all airports.

Larger airports sometimes offer precision approach radar (PAR), but these systems are more common at military air bases than civilian airports. The aircraft's horizontal and vertical movement is tracked via radar, and the controller tells the pilot his position relative to the approach slope. Once the pilots can see the runway lights, they may continue with a visual landing.

Airport guidance signs provide direction and information to taxiing aircraft and airport vehicles.

Many airports have lighting that help guide planes using the runways and taxiways at night or in rain or fog.

On runways, green lights indicate the beginning of the runway for landing, while red lights indicate the end of the runway.

Along taxiways, blue lights indicate the taxiway's edge, and some airports have embedded green lights that indicate the centerline.

Weather observations at the airport are crucial to safe takeoffs and landings.

Planes take-off and land into the wind in order to achieve maximum performance. Because pilots need instantaneous information during landing, a windsock can also be kept in view of the runway. Aviation windsocks are made with lightweight material, withstand strong winds and some are lit up after dark or in foggy weather. Because visibility of windsocks is limited, often multiple glow-orange windsocks are placed on both sides of the runway.[27]

Most airports have groundcrew handling the loading and unloading of passengers, crew, baggage and other services. Some groundcrew are linked to specific airlines operating at the airport.

Among the vehicles that serve an airliner on the ground are:

  • A tow tractor to move the aircraft in and out of the berth.
  • A jet bridge (in some airports) or stairs unit to allow passengers to embark and disembark.
  • A ground power unit for supplying electricity.
  • A cleaning service.
  • A catering service to deliver food and drinks for a flight.
  • A toilet waste truck to empty the tank which holds the waste from the toilets in the aircraft.
  • A water truck to fill the water tanks of the aircraft.
  • A refueling vehicle.
  • A conveyor belt unit for loading and unloading luggage.
  • A vehicle to transport luggage to and from the terminal.

The length of time an aircraft remains on the ground in between consecutive flights is known as "turnaround time". Airlines pay great attention to minimizing turnaround times in an effort to keep aircraft utilization (flying time) high, with times scheduled as low as 25 minutes for jet aircraft operated by low-cost carriers on narrow-body aircraft.

Like industrial equipment or facility management, airports require tailor-made maintenance management due to their complexity.

To manage these airport assets, several solutions are competing for the market: CMMS (computerized maintenance management system) predominate, and mainly enable a company's maintenance activity to be monitored, planned, recorded and rationalized.[28]

Aviation safety is an important concern in the operation of an airport, and almost every airfield includes equipment and procedures for handling emergency situations. Airport crash tender crews are equipped for dealing with airfield accidents, crew and passenger extractions, and the hazards of highly flammable aviation fuel. The crews are also trained to deal with situations such as bomb threats, hijacking, and terrorist activities.

Hazards to aircraft include debris, nesting birds, and reduced friction levels due to environmental conditions such as ice, snow, or rain. Part of runway maintenance is airfield rubber removal which helps maintain friction levels. The fields must be kept clear of debris using cleaning equipment so that loose material does not become a projectile and enter an engine duct (see foreign object damage). In adverse weather conditions, ice and snow clearing equipment can be used to improve traction on the landing strip. For waiting aircraft, equipment is used to spray special deicing fluids on the wings.

Many airports are built near open fields or wetlands. These tend to attract bird populations, which can pose a hazard to aircraft in the form of bird strikes. Airport crews often need to discourage birds from taking up residence.

Some airports are located next to parks, golf courses, or other low-density uses of land.

An airport can have areas where collisions between aircraft on the ground tend to occur.

During the 1980s, a phenomenon known as microburst became a growing concern due to aircraft accidents caused by microburst wind shear, such as Delta Air Lines Flight 191. Microburst radar was developed as an aid to safety during landing, giving two to five minutes' warning to aircraft in the vicinity of the field of a microburst event.

Some airfields now have a special surface known as soft concrete at the end of the runway (stopway or blastpad) that behaves somewhat like styrofoam, bringing the plane to a relatively rapid halt as the material disintegrates. These surfaces are useful when the runway is located next to a body of water or other hazard, and prevent the planes from overrunning the end of the field.

Airports often have on-site firefighters to respond to emergencies. These use specialized vehicles, known as airport crash tenders.

Environmental concerns and sustainability


Aircraft noise is a major cause of noise disturbance to residents living near airports. Sleep can be affected if the airports operate night and early morning flights. Aircraft noise occurs not only from take-offs and landings, but also from ground operations including maintenance and testing of aircraft. Noise can have other noise health effects. Other noise and environmental concerns are vehicle traffic causing noise and pollution on roads leading the airport.

The construction of new airports or addition of runways to existing airports, is often resisted by local residents because of the effect on countryside, historical sites, local flora and fauna. Due to the risk of collision between birds and aircraft, large airports undertake population control programs where they frighten or shoot birds.

The construction of airports has been known to change local weather patterns. For example, because they often flatten out large areas, they can be susceptible to fog in areas where fog rarely forms. In addition, they generally replace trees and grass with pavement, they often change drainage patterns in agricultural areas, leading to more flooding, run-off and erosion in the surrounding land.[29]

Some of the airport administrations prepare and publish annual environmental reports in order to show how they consider these environmental concerns in airport management issues and how they protect environment from airport operations. These reports contain all environmental protection measures performed by airport administration in terms of water, air, soil and noise pollution, resource conservation and protection of natural life around the airport.

A growing number of airports are installing solar photovoltaic arrays to offset their electricity use.[30][31] The National Renewable Energy Lab has shown this can be done safely.[32]

The world's first airport to be fully powered by solar energy is located at Kochi, India. Another airport known for considering environmental parameters is the Seymour Airport at Galapagos Islands.

Military air base


An airbase, sometimes referred to as an air station or airfield, provides basing and support of military aircraft. Some airbases, known as military airports, provide facilities similar to their civilian counterparts. For example, RAF Brize Norton in the UK has a terminal which caters to passengers for the Royal Air Force's scheduled flights to the Falkland Islands. Some airbases are co-located with civilian airports, sharing the same ATC facilities, runways, taxiways and emergency services, but with separate terminals, parking areas and hangars. Bardufoss Airport, Bardufoss Air Station in Norway and Pune Airport in India are examples of this.

An aircraft carrier is a warship that functions as a mobile airbase. Aircraft carriers allow a naval force to project air power without having to depend on local bases for land-based aircraft. After their development in World War I, aircraft carriers replaced the battleship as the centrepiece of a modern fleet during World War II.

Airport designation and naming


Airports are uniquely represented by their IATA airport code and ICAO airport code.

Most airport names include the location.

Some airports have unofficial names, possibly so widely circulated that its official name is little used or even known.

Some airport names include the word "International" to indicate their ability to handle international air traffic. This includes some airports that do not have scheduled international airline services (e.g. Albany International Airport).

History and development


The earliest aircraft takeoff and landing sites were grassy fields.[33] The plane could approach at any angle that provided a favorable wind direction.

The title of "world's oldest airport" is disputed.

Beijing Nanyuan Airport in China, has a dirigible taxiway in 1907 and planes in 1904, was established in 1910.[35] It has been used until September 2019. Pearson Field Airport in Vancouver, Washington, the United States, had a dirigible land in 1905 and planes in 1911 and is still in use.

Hamburg Airport opened in January 1911, making it the oldest commercial airport in the world which is still in operation. Bremen Airport opened in 1913 and remains in use, although it served as an American military field between 1945 and 1949. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol opened on September 16, 1916, as a military airfield, but has accepted civil aircraft only since December 17, 1920, allowing Sydney Airport in Sydney, Australia—which started operations in January 1920—to claim to be one of the world's oldest continually operating commercial airports.[36] Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota, opened in 1920 and has been in continuous commercial service since. It serves about 35,000,000 passengers each year and continues to expand, recently opening a new 11,000 foot (3,355 meter) runway. Of the airports constructed during this early period in aviation, it is one of the largest and busiest that is still currently operating. Rome Ciampino Airport, opened 1916, is also a contender, as well as the Don Mueang International Airport near Bangkok, Thailand, which opened in 1914. Increased aircraft traffic during World War I led to the construction of landing fields. Aircraft had to approach these from certain directions and this led to the development of aids for directing the approach and landing slope.

Following the war, some of these military airfields added civil facilities for handling passenger traffic.

The first lighting used on an airport was during the latter part of the 1920s; in the 1930s approach lighting came into use. These indicated the proper direction and angle of descent. The colours and flash intervals of these lights became standardized under the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). In the 1940s, the slope-line approach system was introduced. This consisted of two rows of lights that formed a funnel indicating an aircraft's position on the glideslope. Additional lights indicated incorrect altitude and direction.

After World War II, airport design became more sophisticated. Passenger buildings were being grouped together in an island, with runways arranged in groups about the terminal. This arrangement permitted expansion of the facilities. But it also meant that passengers had to travel further to reach their plane.

An improvement in the landing field was the introduction of grooves in the concrete surface.

Airport construction boomed during the 1960s with the increase in jet aircraft traffic. Runways were extended out to 3,000 m (9,800 ft). The fields were constructed out of reinforced concrete using a slip-form machine that produces a continual slab with no disruptions along the length. The early 1960s also saw the introduction of jet bridge systems to modern airport terminals, an innovation which eliminated outdoor passenger boarding. These systems became commonplace in the United States by the 1970s.

Airports in entertainment


Airports have played major roles in films and television programs due to their very nature as a transport and international hub, and sometimes because of distinctive architectural features of particular airports.

Several computer simulation games put the player in charge of an airport.

Most airports welcome filming on site, although it must be agreed in advance and may be subject to a fee.

Airport directories


Each national aviation authority has a source of information about airports in their country.

  • Australia
  • Brazil

Infraero is responsible for the airports in Brazil

  • Canada
  • Europe
  • Germany
  • France
  • The United Kingdom and Ireland
  • The United States
  • Japan
  • A comprehensive, consumer/business directory of commercial airports in the world (primarily for airports as businesses, rather than for pilots) is organized by the trade group Airports Council International.

See also


Lists:

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