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Types of Airports

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Also known as: Aerodromes, airfields, landing strips

Definition: An area of land that provides for the taking off, landing, and surface maneuvering of aircraft.

Significance: Although airports mark the beginning and ending points of aircraft flights, they are more than mere runways or grass areas for takeoffs and landings.

Airports are facilities that provide for the maintenance and servicing of aircraft, serve as exchange points for passengers and cargo, and host the various navigational aids used by pilots to guide an aircraft in flight.

Nature and Use

An airport is defined by the type of aircraft it serves and by where it is located. Airports range in size from large commercial air carrier airports, such as Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, with enplanements, or paid boardings, of more than 30 million passengers per year, to small, privately owned grass landing strips in rural areas with landings of only a few small aircraft each year. In the United States, there are about 15,000 airport landing facilities, only 5,000 of which are open to the public. Even fewer, about 3,000, are served by commercial air carrier service.

The other airports are small, general aviation airports in private or public ownership. An airport serves as the transition and exchange point for passengers and cargo between air and ground transportation. Therefore, an airport’s operations include the buildings and facilities that support the transition and exchange of services. Aircraft and passenger facilities often associated with the landing facilities are maintenance, passenger terminal, cargo, fueling, parking, and hangar-storage facilities.

An airport is typically a facility that handles propeller and jet-driven fixed-wing aircraft. In some countries, the definition for an airport can include landing areas other than on land. Specific areas on rivers and waterways are known as seaports or sealanes. A facility specifically used by helicopters is known as a heliport or helipad. Vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft can operate out of special short takeoff and landing (STOL) facilities, heliports, or regular airports. If designed to do so, airports also have the ability to handle helicopters, airships, hot-air balloons, and ultralights.

Types of Airports

Although airports may be classified in a number of different ways, the broadest categories are general aviation and commercial service airports. General aviation airports are those that do not receive regularly scheduled passenger service but rather have a primary purpose of serving the aviation interests and needs of small or outlying communities.

General aviation includes such activities as corporate and business transportation, recreational flying, aircraft instruction and rental, aerial application, aerial observation, skydiving activities, and other special uses. Commercial service airports are those that receive scheduled passenger service. These airports can be further classified into large-hub узловлой аэропорт , medium-hub, small-hub, or nonhub airports. The different classifications reflect the number of enplaned passengers boarding aircraft annually at the airport. A large-hub airport will normally have more than five million enplanements, a medium-hub airport more than one million, a small-hub airport more than one-quarter million, and a nonhub airport fewer than one-quarter million.

The term “hub” has more than one meaning in air transportation. For instance, an air traffic hub refers not to an airport, but to the geographic and demographic characteristics of a community. A large air-traffic-hub airport would be associated with a large city from which many people have access to the air transportation system. A medium air traffic hub airport would similarly be associated with a medium-sized city, and so forth.

The term hub is also used to describe an airline route structure. An airline hub operation is one where a large number of an airline’s flights converge сходиться from distant airports to exchange passengers and then return to those same airports. Because the operation resembles the spokes and the hub of a wheel, it has come to be known as a hub-and spoke operation. The airports and cities at the end of the spoke served by the main hub airport are commonly known as origination or termination airports, because the majority of those airport’s passenger enplanements originate from the local community.

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