Have you ever wondered how Airports work?
Airports have two main types of activities:
- Airside activities
- Non-Airside Activities
The Airside activities include Air Traffic Control (when does which place take off or land), radio navigation (talking to pilots in the air and helping them), lighting (making sure different types of lights on the runway are functioning as required), towing the aircraft from the parking to boarding gate, fueling, baggage loading, maintaining, and repairing aircrafts and parking aircrafts.
The Non-Airside Activities include parking cars, selling air tickets, issuing boarding passes, passenger management, baggage handling, security check, food and conveniences, duty-free shopping.
The terminal building has passenger handling areas to issue boarding passes, duty-free shopping areas, baggage management areas, immigration and security area, and boarding areas.
The Airside of an Airport has:
- Runways: The roads on which planes take off and land.
- Taxiways: These are connecting roads between runways, terminal buildings, hangers, etc.
- Apron Area: Where planes are parked
- Ramp: Where passengers board the aircraft, cargo and food are loaded, and toilets are cleaned.
- Hangers: Covered buildings to park or repair planes.
- Air Traffic Control: The brain of the airport, all coordination of the time when a plane takes off or lands, moves from runway to apron or ramp is directed from here.
How do airline companies get a slot in such busy airports?
A landing or takeoff slot is a right to schedule a landing or takeoff at a particular time. It is basically the time when your flight takes off or lands at an airport. These slots are very valuable and airlines often pay extra to get their preferred slots. For example, airlines wish to land early morning into business cities.
How are multiple flights at the airport managed?
Ground Control is responsible for directing all ground traffic in designated “movement areas”, except the traffic on runways. This traffic 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 take off, it will stop short of the runway, at which point it will be turned over to Tower Control. After a plane has landed, it will depart the runway and be returned to Ground Control.
How is Air Traffic Controller distributed across the route of an aircraft?
After takeoff, once the aircraft is 5 miles away from the airport, the supervision of the aircraft is handed over to the Air Traffic Controller for a given zone, which oversees flights passing through a zone, and gives instructions to the pilot as the aircraft passes through the Centre’s airspace. Aircrafts coordinate with various such Centres over the course of its flight. There are highways in the sky. They are called jet routes, and ATC uses them to separate planes by a certain distance or altitude (generally around 1,000ft vertically) and adjusts them to control traffic flow.
How are flights allocated altitude for their flight?
For most airplanes, the ideal altitude is anything between 30,000 – 40,000 feet. Every aircraft model has a particular cruising altitude where it is most economical to operate as a function of its weight. Airline dispatchers are employed by carriers to control the planning and execution of their airline’s flights – keeping track of where they are, where they are going, their fuel/weight, as well as assigning them specific routes. Most importantly, they calculate a flight’s ideal altitude and request it from Air Traffic Control, who tries to accommodate the request when giving the pilot clearance to take off.
What systems are used to ensure the safety of flights?
There are a number of aids available to pilots, though not all airports are equipped with them. A visual approach slope indicator (VASI) is a group of lights that help pilots land based on the slope of the runway. Some airports are equipped with a VHF omnidirectional range (VOR) to help pilots find the direction to the airport. VORs are often accompanied by a distance measuring equipment (DME) to determine the distance to the VOR. VORs are also located off airports, where they serve to provide airways for aircraft to navigate upon. In poor weather, pilots can use an instrument landing system (ILS) to find the runway and fly the correct approach, even if they cannot see the ground.
Do you fear turbulence in aircrafts?
More than 80% of people report being afraid of flying to some degree so we thought we should tell you more about turbulence. Turbulence during flights is very normal. Every flight, every day, will encounter some degree of rough air. From a pilot’s perspective, usually turbulence is seen as a comfort and convenience issue, not a safety issue per se. It is uncomfortable, but it is not dangerous. Let us read about what causes air turbulence. Clean Air Turbulence (CAT) is the most common turbulence. Air moves horizontally like a snaking river called the ‘jet stream’. This jet stream can be thousands of miles long. Pilots either try to avoid such air pockets or use their energy to cut fuel costs – this air can flow up to 250 mph. Mixing of air causes turbulence when jet stream interacts with slow-moving air.
Ever wondered why Aircraft Windows are round?
As the altitude of the plane increases, the external atmospheric pressure lowers more than the internal cabin pressure. This creates a pressure difference between the inside and outside of the plane. Hence the plane expands. When material expands, stress is created in the material. If the stress increases it can cause breakage at one point. Square windows have four potential weak spots of such stress that gets concentrated in these places – the corners, making them likely to crash under stress caused by air pressure. By curving the window, the stress that would eventually crack the window corner is distributed and the likelihood of it breaking is reduced.
This article is a part of the global connectors series by the author