Airport Components and Terminal Configurations

Airport Components and Terminal Configurations

An airport has two major components; an airfield and terminals. A typical airfield is composed of a runway for takeoffs and landings as well as two (or one) parallel taxiing lanes (taxiway). Runways are labeled according to the direction (rounded magnetic azimuth in decimal) they are facing. Therefore, a plane using runway 09 would be facing east (90 degrees) while runway 27 (270 degrees), which is the same, would be facing west. Connecting lanes between the runway and the taxiing lanes usually have an angle permitting the quick exit from the runway for planes that have just landed. Modern airfield designs provide two of three exiting options per landing direction depending on the plane’s size. A small aircraft will take less distance to brake than a large aircraft and has thus the opportunity to quickly exit the runway, freeing valuable takeoff or landing slots.

Although there is a wide variety of terminal designs, most fit within the following configurations:

  • Standard. The linear orientation of terminals allows several planes to board passengers simultaneously (through jet bridges) and represents one of the most common terminal design. This design can be expanded into piers or a series of concourses linked by underground passages and internal transit systems. The drawback of these designs is the long lateral movements of passengers and luggage between gates. This is particularly the case for large hubs where passengers can contemplate several minutes of walking between gates (e.g. Frankfurt, Chicago, Brussels, Minneapolis / St. Paul).
  • The satellite is an answer to the lack of terminal space by permitting the stowage of several planes on a smaller terminal surface. The satellite is often linked to the rest of the airport by a hall or an underground passage (e.g. Charles de Gaulle, Terminal 1, Dallas/Fort Worth).
  • Some airports opt for shuttles, which enables them to reduce the size of the terminal and maximize the number of planes that can be serviced. However, this involves longer boarding times. The usage of shuttles is often applied at major airport facilities where regular jet bridges service large planes while smaller domestic planes are parked on a pad and serviced by buses. In situations of congestion, shuttles can be used for unloading passengers, which frees gates for boarding. In a normal situation, freight planes are loaded and unloaded by shuttles (haulers bringing air unit load devices), so the use of shuttles in the design is prevalent in air cargo operations.