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An airport is a location where aircraft such as fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, and blimps take off and land. Aircraft may be stored or maintained at an airport. An airport consists of at least one surface such as a runway for a plane to take off and land, a helipad, or water for takeoffs and landings, and often includes buildings such as control towers, hangars and terminal buildings.
Larger airports may have fixed base operator services, seaplane docks and ramps, air traffic control, passenger facilities such as restaurants and lounges, and emergency services. A military airport, in the US, is known as an airbase or air station.
A seaplane base is an area of open water used regularly by seaplanes or amphibious aircraft for landing and taking off.
Smaller or less-developed airports, which represent the vast majority, often have a single runway shorter than 1,000 m (3,300 ft). Larger airports for airline flights generally have paved runways 2,000 m (6,600 ft) or longer. Many small airports have dirt, grass, or gravel runways, rather than asphalt or concrete.
In the United States, the minimum dimensions for dry, hard landing fields are defined by the FAR Landing And Takeoff Field Lengths. These include considerations for safety margins during landing and takeoff. Heavier aircraft require longer runways.
The longest public-use runway in the world is at Qamdo Bangda Airport in China. It has a length of 5,500 m (18,045 ft). The world's widest paved runway is at Ulyanovsk Vostochny Airport in Russia and is 105 m (344 ft) wide.
As of 2009, the CIA stated that there were approximately 44,000 "airports or airfields recognizable from the air" around the world, including 15,095 in the US, the US having the most in the world.
Most of the world's airports are owned by local, regional, or national government bodies who then lease the airport to private corporations who oversee the airport's operation. For example, in the United Kingdom the state-owned British Airports Authority originally operated eight of the nation's major commercial airports - it was subsequently privatized in the late 1980s, and following its takeover by the Spanish Ferrovial consortium in 2006, has been further divested and downsized to operating just five. Germany's Frankfurt Airport is managed by the quasi-private firm Fraport. While in India GMR Group operates, through joint ventures, Indira Gandhi International Airport and Rajiv Gandhi International Airport. Bengaluru International Airport and Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport are controlled by GVK Group. The rest of India's airports are managed by the Airports Authority of India.
In the United States commercial airports are generally operated directly by government entities or government-created airport authorities (also known as port authorities), such as the Los Angeles World Airports authority that oversees several airports in the Greater Los Angeles area, including Los Angeles International Airport.
In Canada, the federal authority, Transport Canada, divested itself of all but the remotest airports in 1999/2000. Now most airports in Canada are owned and operated by individual legal authorities or are municipally owned.
Many US airports still lease part or all of their facilities to outside firms, who operate functions such as retail management and parking. In the US, all commercial airport runways are certified by the FAA under the Code of Federal Regulations Title 14 Part 139, "Certification of Commercial Service Airports" but maintained by the local airport under the regulatory authority of the FAA.
Despite the reluctance to privatize airports in the US (despite the FAA sponsoring a privatization program since 1996), the government-owned, contractor-operated (GOCO) arrangement is the standard for the operation of commercial airports in the rest of the world.