Brief History of Airports

Suvarnabhumi Airport, Thailand

An airport is an aerodrome with extensive facilities, mostly for air transport. Airports often have tools to stock and control aircraft and a control tower. An airport comprises a landing area, including an aerially available open space, including at least one operationally active surface such as a helipad or a runway for a plane to take off. It often includes nearby utility buildings such as hangars, control towers, and terminals. Larger airports may have air traffic control centers, taxiway bridges, airport aprons, passenger facilities such as lounges and restaurants, and medical facilities.

Ever since The Wright brothers invented and flew the first airplane in 1903, there has been a constant evolution to the runways as we know it. Let’s find out the brief history of this modern spectacle.

The oldest aircraft landing and takeoff sites were empty grassy fields. The flight could fly at any angle that presented a convenient wind direction. A slight change was the dirt-only field, which reduced the drag from the grass. However, these worked well only in dry conditions. Later, solid surfaces would allow landings regardless of meteorological conditions.

The title of the “world’s oldest airport” is disputed. In Maryland, College Park Airport, US, established in 1909 by Wilbur Wright, is usually agreed to be the world’s oldest continuously running airfield, although it serves only usual aviation traffic.

Beijing Nanyuan Airport in China, which was constructed to accommodate planes in 1904, and airships in 1907, opened in 1910. It was in service until September 2019. In Vancouver, Washington, United States, Pearson Field Airport was built to support airships in 1905 and planes in 1911 and is still in use as of September 2020.

Hamburg Airport started in January 1911, making it the oldest commercial airport globally, which is still in operation. Bremen Airport began in 1913 and remains in use, although it served as an American military field after World War II for four years.

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol launched on September 16, 1916, as an army airfield, but has allowed civil aircraft only since December 17, 1920, letting Sydney Airport—which started operations in January 1920—to claim to be one of the world’s oldest operating commercial airports. Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport in the US began in 1920 and has been in regular commercial service since. It serves about 35,000,000 tourists each year and still expands, recently opening a new 11,000-foot (3,355 m) runway. Of the airports constructed during this first aviation period, it is presently one of the busiest and largest operations.

Rome Ciampino Airport, launched in 1916, is also a contender and the Don Mueang International Airport near Bangkok, Thailand, which started in 1914. Elevated aircraft traffic during World War I led to the creation of landing fields. Aircraft had to approach these from specific directions, which led to the development of aids for managing the approach and landing slope.

Following the war, some of these army airfields added commercial facilities for handling tourist traffic. One of the oldest such fields was Paris – Le Bourget Airport at Le Bourget, near Paris. The first airport to operate proposed international commercial services was Hounslow Heath Aerodrome in August 1919, but it was terminated and replaced by Croydon Airport in March 1920.

In 1922, the first continual airport and commercial terminal solely for commercial aviation were launched at Flughafen Devau near Königsberg, East Prussia. This era’s airports used a concrete “apron,” which allowed night flying and landing more massive airplane.

The first lighting employed on an airport was during the late part of the 1920s; in the 1930s, approach lighting came into practice. These showed the angle of descent and proper direction. These lights’ colors and flash intervals became regulated under the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization). In the 1940s, the slope-line approach system was added. This comprised two rows of lights that shaped a funnel showing an aircraft’s position on the glideslope. Extra lights indicated the wrong direction and altitude.

After World War II, the airport layout became more complicated. Passenger buildings were being arranged on an island, with runways designed in groups about the terminal. This arrangement permitted the development of the facilities. But it also meant that tourists had to travel further to board their plane.

An addition in the landing field was the initiation of grooves in the concrete surface. These run perpendicular to the landing aircraft’s path and serve to draw off extra rainwater that could build up in front of the plane’s wheels.

Airport construction expanded during the 1960s with the rise in jet aircraft traffic. Runways were stretched out to 9800ft (3,000 m). The fields were built out of bolstered concrete using a slip-form machine that provides a continuous slab with no interruptions along the length. The early 1960s also saw the evolution of jet bridge systems to modern airport terminals, an innovation that eliminated outdoor passenger boarding. These systems became commonplace in the United States by the 1970s.

Airports in TV Series and Movies:

Airports have played significant roles in television programs and films due to their very nature as an international hub and transport and distinctive architectural features of particular airports. One such example is The Terminal, a movie about a man who becomes forever grounded in an airport terminal and must survive only on the airport’s shelter and food. They have also played essential parts in television series like The Amazing Race, Lost, Cycle 10, America’s Next Top Model, which have significant portions of their script set within airports.

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