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Planning and Design of Airports

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The fifth edition of this historic text could never have been created without the career efforts of its original author, the late Dr. Robert Horonjeff, and his coauthor on later editions, the late Dr. Francis McKelvey. Their authorship will always be first credited. Updating this book without their personal guidance was immensely challenging.

 It is only hoped that they would be satisfied with knowing their original philosophies still form the basis for this text. Contributing to this update have been the fine efforts of Dr. William Sproule, who studied under Dr. McKelvey and helped bring his goal of maintaining the currency of this text to fruition. Many thanks go out to the institutions at which the original authors were, and those who helped update this latest edition have been, lucky enough to be employed: the University of California at Berkeley, Michigan State University, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Michigan Technological University, Jacobs Consultancy, and The Ohio State University.

 It is hoped that the students, faculty, and professionals of these and all such institutions continue to find this text a valuable resource. This book is dedicated to the memories of Dr. Horonjeff and Dr. McKelvey, who have helped to immortalize the formal practice of planning and designing the world’s airports. Their life’s efforts have resulted in bettering the lives of countless students, professionals, and users of civil aviation.

Since its beginning in the early twentieth century, civil aviation has become one of the most fascinating, important, and complex industries in the world. The civil aviation system, particularly its airports, has come to be the backbone of world transport and a necessity to twenty-first-century trade and commerce. In 2008, the commercial service segment of civil aviation, consisting of more than 900 airlines and 22,000 aircraft, carried more than 2 billion passengers and 85 million tons of cargo on more than 74 million flights to more than 1700 airports in more than 180 countries worldwide. Millions more private, corporate, and charter “general aviation” operations were conducted at thousands of commercial and general aviation airports throughout the world. In many parts of the world, commercial service and general aviation serve as the primary, if not the only method of transportation between communities. 

The magnitude of the impact of the commercial air transportation industry on the world economy is tremendous, contributing more than $2.6 trillion in economic activity, equivalent to 8 percent of the world gross domestic product, and supporting 29 million jobs. In the United States alone civil aviation is responsible for $900 billon in economic activity and 11 million jobs. 

General aviation serves an equally important role in the world’s economy, providing charter, cargo, corporate, medical, and private transport, as well as such services as aerial photography, firefighting, surveillance, and recreation. In the United States alone, there are more than 225,000 registered general aviation aircraft and more than 600,000 registered pilots.

The presence of civil aviation has affected our economic way of life, it has made changes in our social and cultural viewpoints, and has had a hand in shaping the course of political history. The sociological changes brought about by air transportation are perhaps as important as those it has brought about in the economy. People have been brought closer together and so have reached a better understanding of interregional problems. Industry has found new ways to do business. 

The opportunity for more frequent exchanges of information has been facilitated, and air transport is enabling more people to enjoy the cultures and traditions of distant lands. In recent years, profound changes in technology and policy have had significant impacts on civil aviation and its supporting airport infrastructure. The industry continues to grow in numbers of aircraft, passengers and cargo carried, and markets served, from nonstop service on superjumbo aircraft between cities half-way across the planet, to privately operated “very light jets” between any of thousands of small airports domestically. 

Growth encouraged from technological advancements countered with increased constraints on the civil aviation system due to increased capacity limitations, security regulations, and financial constraints have resulted in ever increasing challenges to airport planning and design. Civil aviation is typically considered in three sectors, commercial service aviation (more commonly known as air carriers or airlines), air cargo, and general aviation.

 Although the lines between these traditional sectors are becoming increasingly blurred, the regulations and characteristics regarding their individual operations are often mutually exclusive, and as such, those involved in airport planning and design should have an understanding of each sector.