The airport apron, apron, or ramp, is the area of an airport where aircraft are parked, unloaded or loaded, refueled, or boarded. Although the use of the apron is covered by regulations, such as lighting on vehicles, it is typically more accessible to users than the runway or taxiway. However, the apron is not usually open to the general public and a permit may be required to gain access. By extension, the term "apron" is also used to identify the air traffic control position responsible for coordinating movement on this surface at busier airports.
The use of the apron may be controlled by the apron management service (apron control or apron advisory) to provide coordination between the users.
An inclined plane, also known as a ramp, is a flat supporting surface tilted at an angle, with one end higher than the other, used as an aid for raising or lowering a load. The inclined plane is one of the six classical simple machines defined by Renaissance scientists. Inclined planes are widely used to move heavy loads over vertical obstacles; examples vary from a ramp used to load goods into a truck, to a person walking up a pedestrian ramp, to an automobile or railroad train climbing a grade.
The US military typically refers to the apron area as the flight line.
Some in the general public and news media refer to the apron at airports as the tarmac even though most of these areas are paved with concrete, not tarmac. Specific materials used include asphalt concrete (which itself is often inexactly called "tarmac," adding to the confusion), porous friction course, and Portland cement concrete.
In the United States, the word ramp is an older term for an area where pre-flight activities were done; an apron was any area for parking and maintenance. Passenger gates are the main feature of a terminal ramp. The word apron is the ICAO and FAA terminology (the word ramp is not), so the word ramp is not used with this meaning outside the US, Canada, Maldives, and the Philippines.