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The airport apron, also referred to as the ramp or flight line, is located off of the airport runway. Its purpose is to serve as the airplane’s parking area, where all aircraft (both commercial planes and private jets) are loaded and unloaded, as well as fueled and maintained before their next flight.

The apron is where you can find passengers boarding or deboarding an aircraft. It’s also where handlers load and unload baggage and cargo. Because of the chaotic nature of this area of the airport, ground crew members are consistently on standby to coordinate planes, organize baggage and help maintenance crew inspect planes.

Terminology: Apron Meaning in Aviation

  • In the U.S., the apron is known for any part of the airport used to park or maintain an aircraft, whereas the ramp refers to the area where pre-flight activities are performed.
  • An apron is sometimes erroneously referred to as the tarmac, which basically means any paved surface, including the runway, landing strip, airstrip and taxiway.

Benefits of a Well-Maintained Airport Apron

There are normally various aprons found at both commercial and private airports around the world. Most large airports have their aprons divided into a number of sections so that two or more aircraft are not assigned to park in the same apron. This rule applies, for example, to private airports in London, such as London City Airport, where the apron is split into four sections.

Some of the benefits of organizing aprons at airports include:

  • Preventing congestion. Dividing flights among different aprons is helpful in space management, especially when space is limited.
  • Reducing delays. A dedicated apron for each flight means fewer delays and a more streamlined service.
  • Optimizing ground service and performance. Each apron section is equipped with necessary ground support equipment like passenger boarding bridges, fueling stations, and baggage handling systems. This efficiency leads to quicker flight turnarounds.
  • Prioritizing safety. Designating certain aircraft to their aprons can prevent aircraft collisions and ground service accidents.

Common Questions About Airport Aprons: Answered

What is the difference between a runway and an apron?

The airport runway and apron are two separate areas of the airport. The runway is for aircraft landing and takeoff. The apron is where the aircraft are parked, loaded, unloaded, fueled, and maintained.

What is the difference between a hangar and an apron?

The hangar is also separate from the apron. An airport hangar is the place that houses the aircraft, providing shelter and protection from the elements when not in use. This is also where repairs take place.

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