The Importance Behind Those Strange Airfield Designs

By | March 13, 2019

The layout of an airfield and its runways can seem nonsensical, especially from a ground view, but they’re carefully planned and calculated to accommodate safety, efficiency and growing traffic. Here are different designs you might encounter in your travels and the airports that use them to the greatest advantage.

Parallel Runways

Wind is a constant factor in airfield design, and parallel runways are laid out so that they align with wind patterns. The efficiency of parallel runways lies in how far apart they are placed from one another. If they are too close, airplanes can only land in an alternating fashion. However, if they are far enough apart, planes can land simultaneously, thus increasing the amount of air traffic volume an airport can sustain.

Intersecting Runways

Contrary to parallel runways, intersecting designs allow for more flexibility with wind direction. If, for example, the wind direction was to change, an airplane can land on the runway that aligns with the best headwind. These types of layouts allow for greater use of airport space as well, and planes can take off and land on different runways simultaneously. This does cause a greater headache for air traffic control, who must carefully monitor flights and ensure the intersecting paths don’t result in crashes.

Atlanta International Airport

Claiming the title of the busiest airport in the world, Atlanta’s airfield is built for heavy traffic. With five parallel runways of varying lengths to accommodate all sizes of planes, Atlanta whisks approximately 2,700 planes in and out of its terminals each day.

Denver International Airport

DIA owns the largest amount of land of any airport in the U.S., with plans to increase its current three terminals to five in the future. Due to unpredictable winds, DIA has a runway aligning with each direction.

Dubai International Airport

With two runways over 14,000 feet long, Dubai’s airport can sustain the largest of planes, making it a popular hub for international flights.

The next time you travel by air, see if you can spot any of these designs. You might be surprised at how creative they can be to accommodate the complicated factors of air travel.


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