Aircraft movements at and around the airport pose significant hazards on the ground.

Air Belgium Airbus A340-313 OO-ABD
Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Aircraft engines produce tremendous amounts of thrust to carry out a flying mission. Modern aircraft engines work on compression, combustion, and expansion principles. The intake air passes through several stages of low-pressure and high-pressure compression.

The compressed air is then mixed with fuel and ignited for combustion. The fuel-air mixture expands and exits the engine exhaust at high velocity, pushing the aircraft forward. Generally, the greater the engine’s exhaust velocity, the faster the aircraft moves forward.

While high velocities from the exhaust are acceptable in the air, these pose a significant risk on the ground. Operating in and out of the airport, exhaust velocities can be hazardous to airport structures, equipment, and personnel.

Power hazard areas

Outside the busy terminal buildings at an airport, various machines (including ground and air vehicles) and personnel move about in a synchronized fashion. From fuel trucks, service vehicles, and ground controllers to the dispatch staff, they all work near the aircraft.

Saudia (Ad-Diriyah E-Prix Livery) Boeing 777-368(ER) HZ-AK43 (2)

Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Some of the most hazardous areas at airports are on the apron, where aircraft prepare for taxi and takeoff. Even during the taxi from the gate, the wake velocity of the aircraft is upwards of 200 mph (320 kph), with exhaust temperatures approaching 212°F (100°C).

The ramp

The ramp is where the aircraft is parked during its turnaround time at the airport. As soon as the aircraft comes to a complete stop, ground personnel and service trucks begin their work. While the engines are turned off at the time, high temperatures from the exhaust pose a severe hazard to people. Service trucks and equipment are positioned in such a way that ramp accidents can be prevented.


An idling aircraft has an engine exhaust velocity of over 120 mph (192 kph). Right after the pushback, ground equipment and personnel must clear the way before the engines are turned on. The red beacon lights on the top and bottom of the fuselage are turned on to indicate the running of the engines. The beacons are turned on when the aircraft is pushed back from the gate to alert the ground staff to stay clear of the aircraft.

Air Canada (Star Alliance Livery) Airbus A330-343 C-GHLM

Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

During taxi, the aircraft passes along various terminal buildings and past ground equipment. A taxing aircraft has an engine exhaust velocity of over 200 mph (320 kph) and temperatures exceeding 200°F (93°C). All ground vehicles must stay clear of the taxing aircraft to avoid collision and the potential effects of the engine exhaust.

Airport surrounding areas

The potential for aircraft to crash near airports is considered when prescribing safety measures. Crash incidents around airports may cause bushfires and smoke in the surroundings. Similarly, fuel refineries or other chemical plants near the airport may pose a significant safety hazard. For example, several major oil refineries and chemical plants are on the Brisbane River to the east of Brisbane Airport in Australia.

Similarly, a BP refinery on Bulwer Island is displaced less than one mile (1.5 km) from the existing runway centerline at Brisbane Airport. The existence of the refinery poses significant fire and explosion hazards in the area. Since these facilities existed before the airport was built, extreme safety measures are in place to prevent large-scale incidents.

What do you think about the hazard areas at airports? Tell us in the comments section.


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