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Airport Runways

Updated: Jun 12

There are many factors that determine if an aircraft can operate from a given airport. Of course the availability of certain services, such as fuel, access to air stairs and maintenance are all necessary. But before considering anything else, one must determine if the plane can physically land at an airport, and equally as important, take off.

Helicopters must think they’re so fancy. These privileged aircraft and their ability to land almost anywhere don’t impress me one bit. Well they actually do, a lot. But this blog will hopefully illustrate that the devil is in the details when it comes to fixed wing aircraft landing, and taking off. The details and dimensions of an airport's runway is critical, especially when it comes to arranging a private jet or charter flight into and out of a smaller airport.

Runway Length and Width

Looking at aerial views of runways can lead some to the assumption that they are all uniform, big and appropriate for any plane to land. This couldn’t be further from the truth. A given aircraft type has its own individual set of requirements in regards to these dimensions. The classic 150’ wide runway that can handle a wide-body plane for a large group charter flight isn’t a guarantee at every airport. Knowing the width of available runways is important for a variety of reasons including runway illusion and crosswind condition. Runways also have different approach categories based on width, and have universal threshold markings that indicate the actual width.

So let’s practice…. How wide are these runways? (answers at very bottom of this blog)

Runway 26 is how long?
Could a 737 land on Runway 24?
How wide is Runway 36? That looks like a narrow body getting into position to take off.

As for length, this one is a bit easier to put our heads around. In layman’s terms, a large metal bird on wheels needs a certain amount of space to take off, and to land safely. The weight of the aircraft comes into play here. The actual physics involved with landing and taking off are way over the head of this blogger, but what we are very familiar with is determining who and what can fly into where.

ARFF Requirements

Once you’ve determined you have a plane that can both land and take off from a given runway based on the length and width, appropriate safety equipment will need to be considered. Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting (ARFF) is a type of firefighting that involves the emergency response, mitigation, evacuation, and rescue of passengers and crew of aircraft involved in aviation accidents and incidents.

All airports with scheduled passenger flights require firefighting equipment in varying capacities. ARFF is broken into five different indexes (which are simply titled with the letters A through E), and depending on the index, between one and three firefight vehicles are required. AARF indexes also have varying requirements in regards to extinguishing agents. The AARF Index of a given airport will also help determine which aircraft can land. While a larger aircraft may be able to land based on the runway alone, if the airport doesn't have the appropriate AARF certification, you may require a smaller aircraft or may need to hire additional services to accommodate the aircraft (which may be permitted at certain airports).

So what can take off and land from where?

A runway of at least 6,000 ft in length is usually adequate for aircraft weights below approximately 200,000 lb. Larger aircraft including wide-bodies will usually require at least 8,000 ft at sea level and somewhat more at higher altitude airports. International wide-body flights, which carry substantial amounts of fuel and are therefore heavier, may also have landing requirements of 10,000 ft or more and takeoff requirements of 13,000 ft. The Boeing 747 is considered to have the longest takeoff distance of the more common aircraft types and has set the standard for runway lengths of larger international airports.

So how do I know what size private jet or aircraft to charter for my large group?

This is a great question! You can leave it to your trusted broker partner to help you determine the type of aircraft best suited for your upcoming trip. With each request that we receive, rest assured that one of the first things we will look into are the airports.

ANSWERS: RWY26 is 100ft wide; RWY24 is 75ft wide No 737; and RWY36 is 200ft wide

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