Airport can be seen as a nod in the transport system. All the passengers, cargo and post go through the airports arriving there and leaving from there using various methods of transportation. The airports are usually connected to the public transport system by road having stops for locally favoured public transportation means like bus, trolleys and trams, however often also connected to railway system.
Airport is place for various activities like passenger and cargo processing, aircraft handling, catering provision and air traffic management. All those activities are supported by appropriate infrastructure.
The required infrastructures result the basic characteristics of an average airport. Therefore, airports are usually requiring a huge amount of land to accommodate the runway or in case of bigger airports runways that can be parallel or crossing or the combination of those. In addition, lot of land required for the terminal that consists of the terminal building. The purpose of the terminal building is to accommodate passengers while they are being processed (security check, customs and immigration check, baggage drop-off and reconciliation, boarding, transferring from flight to flight or simply waiting). Of course, lot of parking space is needed for arriving and departing passengers and relatives if they are using personal transportation means. Then again, the public transportation also should be provided with appropriate space for stops.
That is the air landside of the terminal, however there is an airside too. The airside should accommodate all the aircraft that are currently at the airport and waiting for passengers, cargo, post to be unloaded, and then reloaded again. The aircraft should be positioned with the consideration for need of handling processes. The aircraft could positioned near the building for use of piers to load/unload the passengers or remotely then special self-propelled or towed stairs are used with combination of buses to help passenger doing so. Lots of other equipment is used around the aircraft like fuel tracks, catering tracks, high-loaders, dollies and more requiring lot of space around the aircraft.
Beside all that lot of space required for office buildings, catering buildings fuel dump, cargo warehouses, maintenance base for aircraft and storage for the handling equipment.
There is another activity usually placed at the airport the Air Traffic Management. Usually they require a tower to conduct airport related operations and some other building for the rest of their operations.
As a result, the airports now days look like a standalone city with the tight security around it.
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