General aviation

Airport layout: the incredible place around an aircraft

Written by Chiara Collacciani

Gate November Third Week, Tuesday. 

Hey there, it is the Captain Colly who speaks to you: on behalf of the Voice I would like to welcome you on board of this third week of November! Even if the airport ticket office is behind us, before our fifth take off, last minute paperwork. I can confirm to you our scheduled from now on: one take off and obviously the related landing (no panic!) each week, on the  following day than the previous one. Moreover, if you miss the boarding, on Voice you can find all my flights articles. Roger, ready for departure.

You ever think about the places and spaces around the airplane where you are directed for the boarding? Yes simply the Airport, are suggesting our Cabin Crew (doesn’t count!), but specifically we must report to the Airport Layout. What an amazing Island! I admit I would like to follow the plot of many movies as

 “Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere

but I will focus on the incredible architecture of this reality.

You have to know that the Airport size has totally changed and evolved over the years. Before the II World War the related area could be compared to an airfield, simply open, grassy field. The step-up was realised during the late 1930s when new aircrafts (as the Douglas DC3) required extensive takeoff and landing distances. So for example today we can attend to

  • Dammam,  King Fahd International Airport, 776km²
  • Denver International Airport, 135,71 km²
  • Paris Charles De Gaulle, 32,37 km²
  • Roma Fiumicino – Leonardo da Vinci, 29 km²

All the Airports are structurally very similar and each one is divided into two principal areas:

  • landside
  • airside

The landside includes all the access passages to the Airport structure, as

  • car parkings & rental
  • rest areas
  • commercial services
  • train or subway station
  • walking areas

and to better understand here the general public has unrestricted access.

To this area are usually directed consistent urban studies since the landside functionality represents social and economic challenge. Moreover since the landside is the closest area to the airside constitues an airport top priority in terms of security. All the Airports taking so seriously this aspect and remember (Colly’s word) that even if security is not visible to your eyes it really works and doesn’t mean that nothing is happening.
You can consider the landside as the area of migration, your personal trip with a Celestial Pilot, despite often for many passengers represents a phase so caotic and confused.

Sure as the actual air pocket (fasten your seat belts please) is the landside–airside boundary. The airside is the aircrafts welcome area, in fact includes all the accessible spaces by them as:

  • runways
  • aircrafts traffic spaces as entry or exit taxiways
  • taxiways
  • stand taxiline
  • taxiway strip
  • aircrafts stands
  • apron-gate area

Behind the Airside scenes there is an incredible (you really can’t imagine) set of procedures, rules and actors (pilot, atc, ramp agent, ground operator, maintenance and warehouse workers, etc.) not just related to the management of the aircraft movements, in fact think about to other aspects as

  • weather and atmospheric effects management
  • noise control and abatement
  • wildlife management

The airside could be really considered as the airport heart since it represents effectively where a flight starts and ends.

A specific focus we have to perform on the airport building between the landside and the airside: the terminal area. Unfortunately here in Cockpit there isn’t Tom Hanks but exactly you have to think on him regarding this area. The terminal includes:

  • arrivals area where all the passengers incoming from the airside are welcomed after which they are use to go to the exit, to claim the baggage or to reach waiting areas before a new flight
  • departure area where the future passenger will perform all the necessary activities to become an effective passenger: ticket office, check-in office, money exchange, security check, etc.
  • boarding area where the almost effective passenger is ready to board the aircraft or where an effective passenger coming from it
  • waiting area for the satisfaction of our primary needs or not

The story on who has the ownership to assum the Crown of effective passenger I’ll tell you on another flight.

Ok I know we have to respect the estimated time of arrival, so I would like to leave you with an overall reflection: try to imagine how much the Airports will change again in the future and not only in size but most likely in the area diversification. The most recent challenge has been the one had to manage the post 9/11.
From now on we have in front of us the one related to C-19, that will require to ensure not only security but also health. In addition to this there will be another higher competition: rethink on the airports architectures for a new different passenger kind of traffic since the C-19 Health Emergency. Our daily life is totally changed and consequently we will have different travel needs to be satisfied inside the Airport.

All off.
Thanks for flying with Colly.

About the author

Chiara Collacciani