12 Types of Airports || Airport Categories Explained

Types of Airports

Air transport since its start has become one of the fastest modes of travel. This is why the demand for airports has increased all over the world. This demand has to do with the upgradation of airports as well. Different types of airports are constructed based on the needs of the place.

12 Types of Airports  Airport Categories Explained

Airports consist of many different things and their systematic operations. In an airport, there are landing areas in which the runway of a plane is present along with a helipad for the landing of helicopters as well, moreover, besides this, there are buildings for control towers, and terminals as well. In major airports, there are some extra buildings for air traffic control, restaurants, lounges for passengers, and emergency service buildings as well.

Although one may think that operating an airport is very easy, in reality, it is one of the most challenging jobs. This can be understood when we see how complex it is to sync things like aircraft support service, passenger support service, and air control service.

An airport for a city is a very important infrastructure as it helps people from all over the world get there. It also acts in providing jobs to the locals as a huge workforce is required for proper functioning.

The majority of people out there don’t know that airports are categorized based on their function and type. So, getting knowledge about it feels very interesting and we will take a look at the different types of airports below.

1. Primary Commercial Service Airports.
2. Non-primary Commercial Service Airports.
3. Reliever Airports.
4. Cargo Service Airports.
5. General Aviation Airports.
6. National Airports.
7. Regional Airports.
8. Local Airports.
9. Basic Airports
10. Unclassified Airports.
11. Seaplane Base Airports.
12. Heliport Airports.

1. Primary Commercial Service Airports

Primary Commercial Service Airports are a category of airports that are publicly owned. These types of airports are the most common forms of airports. Primary airports are the airports from which every year more than 10000 people board the plane. These airports are the ones that are made hubs in big cities.

The primary airports are designed and constructed in such a way that both large numbers of people and cargo can be easily handled. The majority of these types of airports are international airports which help in connecting different parts of the world. These are also used for the transportation of goods as well.

In these airports, there are two different terminals, one for the people who are traveling within a country which is known as a domestic terminal. Whereas passengers who are traveling out of the country have a different terminal known as the international terminal. In the international terminal, there are immigration and customs monitoring the reasons for the incoming and outgoing people.

As the primary commercial service airports are so big, they have a different section for cargo. In this section, the customs import and export control is located. This cargo area is not connected to the passenger section.

When it comes to security and control, these airports are very strict. The main reason behind it is because in this, the main centers from where illegal activities like smuggling of drugs, certain band items in a country, terrorist attacks, etc are carried out. Some of the primary commercial service airports are Heathrow and LAX.

2. Non-primary Commercial Service Airports

Non-primary commercial service airports are defined as airports that have more than 2500 passengers and less than 10000 passengers annually according to the Federal Aviation Administration(FAA). Although it may feel like both the primary commercial service airports and the non-primary commercial service airports are the same, it is not.

The first thing that differentiates these two is the size of the airports. The primary commercial service airports are one of the biggest airports that not only connect the nation but the whole world. However, the non-primary commercial service airports are small in size with fewer passengers, and are responsible for connecting different cities and towns of a country. There is an exception if this type of airport is near the border it can act as an international airport.

In these airports, the air traffic is very less as very few passengers travel from these airports. The cargo of non-primary commercial service airports is very low as well. As these airports are very small, both the number of passengers as well as the cargo operation are very limited.

The security and restriction of non-primary commercial service airports are not so strict in comparison to the primary commercial service airport. This is mainly because these types of airports are usually domestic and the passengers travel from one part of the country to another. Along with this, the number of passengers is also less so, security is generally not that much compared to big airports. In the non-primary commercial service airports, immigration and customs are present only in a few cases when flights travel internationally.

3. Reliever Airports

Reliever Airports are also known as relief airports. These airports are generally located near the primary commercial service airports. Usually, these types of airports are small in size. The reason behind their location near a big airport is that it can help in reducing the load on large airports.

According to the Federal aviation administration, Reliever Airports were constructed to relieve congestion from commercial airports and also to help the local people with easy access to airports.

Mainly these airports are used to relieve cargo congestion from a primary commercial service airport so that the large airport can handle more and more passenger aircraft. However, if needed these airports can also relieve passenger aircraft.

Reliever Airports that have the proper infrastructure to land passenger aircraft are used in certain ways like bad weather, congestion of aircraft, security reasons, etc. Both cargo and commercial passenger aircraft are diverted to these relief airports during some extreme and uncontrollable situations.

However, these airports are only used for regional and national aircraft as they don’t have customs or immigration. International passenger aircraft are always handled by large airports.

Although these airports are used publically, they are not always owned by the government. In some cases, it is either owned by a person or by a firm or group. Small privately owned airplanes are the ones that use these airports the most.

4. Cargo Service Airports

Cargo service airports, as the name suggests, it is an airport which is meant to handle the cargo transport of an airplane. Cargo service airports help in the handling of cargo planes, and delivery of cargo through flights.

However, when we talk about a cargo service airport, some of its features are identical to primary commercial service airports as it also serves as a cargo service airport because of its size. But the airports that are designated as cargo service airports only handle cargo and freight.

Based on the size of an airport and its location, a cargo service airport can be categorized whether it is an interstate, intrastate or international cargo service airport.

It is through these airports that different things can be sent to different parts of the world within a short time.

5. General Aviation Airports

The term general aviation airports are used to refer to several small airports which cannot be put into separate categories. In this category, both passenger, as well as cargo airports, are considered. Although the primary purpose of this type of airport is not passenger and cargo transportation, it is built for maintenance, surveillance, parking, and emergency rescue services.

General aviation airports are defined as small public airports which do not have scheduled air service or if they have it, it is very less in number. This type of airport has less than 2500 passengers per year.

If we look at the maps, we will see that most of the general aviation airports are located in regions where the population, as well as population density, is very low. This low population and density of population is the reason behind these airports getting such a low number of passengers annually.

Because of the low demand for passengers as well as cargo, these airports are usually very small in size with a small runway that is capable of landing small aircraft.

General aviation airports are subdivided mainly into 5 categories. This subdivision helps in further understanding the functions of different types of airports and their differences from each other. Therefore, 5 subdivisions of general aviation airports are as follows:

⇒ National Airports
⇒ Regional Airports
⇒ Local Airports
⇒ Basic Airports
⇒ Unclassified Airports

6. National Airports

National airports are a subdivision of general aviation airports. In this type of airport, the annual number of boarding passengers is less than 2500. Although the number of passengers is low, still, flights that connect every part of the nation can be found here. One thing that is different from all other airports in the subdivision is that in National airports, the runways are longer so that some larger aircraft can land and take off from there.

In National airports, usually one can see aircraft with single-engine, jet engines, and multi-propeller engines. Although the airport is a bit larger but still large aircraft that land in commercial airports cannot land here. These airports are very important for a nation because they connect small towns and cities which are producers to large urban areas as well as the international market which helps in the growth of the country as a whole.

National airports can serve National as well as international passengers and are large enough to serve more passengers as well. A city that does not want to have a commercial airport can go with a national airport as it can work as a good alternative to a commercial airport.

7. Regional Airports

The second subdivision of the general aviation airports is the regional airport. These types of airports are large but smaller than the national airports. Although regional airports are small in size, they can be very busy as they are mainly situated in regions with high population density.

These airports are mainly used for interstate and intrastate transfers of goods and passengers. Moreover, transport of both goods and passengers to bigger airports which have the facility of international transfer of goods and passengers is also possible.

Regional airports help in connecting towns to regional and national markets which helps in the economic growth of the local area. Mainly these airports are found near urban areas where it helps in the transportation of large numbers of people. Jet engine planes and multi-engine propeller planes are compatible with the runways of these airports.

The population of a region helps in determining whether the airport of that place is a regional airport or not. An airport in an area with an urban population of 10000 to 50000 is considered a regional airport.

8. Local Airports

Local airports are the third subdivision of general aviation airports. These airports are small and mainly used by the locals for traveling to the local states within a country. Local airports are often used by regional and national airports to reduce air traffic. It is considered one of the most convenient ways for Intra State traveling. These airports have fewer security measures as well as Red tape measures.

In the United States, many states are making these local airports and have deemed these airports as very important. This helps the government in reaching out to everyone out there. Local airports provide a perfect and convenient way of transportation to the local communities who can travel to the nearby state markets or regional markets. Local areas are usually found near largely populated areas which are not classified as metropolitan areas.

The most common type of aircraft in the local airports is piston propeller engine aircraft. These types of aircraft are perfect for the transportation of the local communities and their goods. Such types of small aircraft can only carry a limited amount of passengers or goods.

The local airports are important because it is where the flight training schools, emergency flight rescue services, and chartered flights are located.

9. Basic Airports

The basic airports are another subdivision of the general aviation airports. The infrastructure and services of these airports are very limited. The runways of these airports are not suitable for jet engine aircraft, so, other small aircraft should be used in this airport.

Through these basic airports, local communities can connect to the regional and national airports. These airports are mainly constructed for emergency landings, flight schools, flying of personal aircraft, air ambulance rescue service, and emergency responses.

The majority of aircraft which fly from these airports are light propeller-driven aircraft. These types of aircraft are mainly used for self-pleasure and for learning how to fly. In these basic airports, there is a minimum amount of infrastructure, service, and security. In almost all the basic airports, there is only a single runway for landing and taking off planes.

10. Unclassified Airports

Unclassified airports are airports that cannot be put into a category. It is the fifth subdivision of a general aviation airport. These airports are generally found in rural areas. Airports are small land strips in local areas which are more than up so that a flight can land and take off.

Unclassified airports are mainly constructed by the local people of the area so that in case of emergency, they can be used. The landing strip is smoothed by the locals and only small aircraft which can handle rough landings and take-offs can come to these airports. There are no air control towers nor any other infrastructure that we see in an airport. These airports are rarely used so, the traffic is very insignificant. Whenever a plane lands, it is mainly because of someone’s request to supply food or goods to the region.

To get an aircraft in these airports, one has to contact the nearest rural airport and ask for a flight that is needed. With little to no Air traffic control service, infrastructure, cargo services, customer support, etc., these are only the name airports.

11. Seaplane Base Airports

As we know that about two third of the world is water, so, there are many such small iron Nations where the construction of airports is impossible. So, to connect such Nations and islands with the rest of the world through the air for the speedy delivery of essential items in foods as well as transportation of goods and people, these types of airports are built.

Seaplane base airports are docks that float on the water near which the airplane comes and stops. Seaplanes are constructed differently as they don’t need wheels. The path of water that is used by the seaplanes to take off is to be monitored carefully so that people don’t come inside those flight parts of a seaplane.

The size of the tech platform which floats on the water depends on the number of people on the island. If it is for a small group of people then the platform is generally small when it is for a town the platform is big.

The system at air traffic control and security of these airports are the same as at the airports of land. The main difference in this airport is that the plane lands on water instead of concrete or tarmac paths.

12. Heliport Airports

Heliport airports are airports that are constructed for helicopters and to control helicopter traffic. The infrastructure and services of these airports are only for helicopters and no fixed-wing aircraft can land in these airports.

Heliport airports are mainly constructed to provide services and goods to the island which due to lack of space, large runways for aircraft cannot be made. Heliports are very useful because they can be used not only for commercial and cargo flights but also for rescue, medical fights as well as supporting the local region. Helicopters are also used in many places for tourism as scenery tours are given on the helicopter.

The helicopter service is primarily suitable for short-distance travel as well as for areas where the number of passengers is very low.

Air travel is considered one of the safest and fastest ways of traveling from one place to another and connecting the world. Airports and airplanes in the present-day world are one of the most important things for the human race. At present time, it doesn’t matter how far one is as, within a single day, we can reach the North Hemisphere to South Hemisphere. How big an airport needs to be is determined by the locality’s population. Read Also: Top 10 Busiest Railway Stations in the USA.