We Are Now Taking Off From 22000 Feet

It is very likely you’re within 50km of an airport — even if it’s a very small one.

Passenger volumes continue to rise year-on-year, and newer, larger airports are needed to keep up with demand. My local major airport, London Heathrow (LHR), claims to operate at 98% capacity.

London alone has 5 major airports, and many fast growing commercial ones such as London Southend (SEN). Although if it’s actually in London is debatable!

With a recent inquisitiveness about airports, I began questioning. How many airports are out there? Where are they? Here are some interesting statistics.

Methodology

OurAirports maintain a comprehensive document of airports around the world. It currently lists over 46000 airports and includes information such as location, elevation, runways, and identification codes. This data was used to perform all analysis.

Analysis

Airports by country

Rank by airport count country count_airports
1 United States 21487
2 Brazil 3833
3 Canada 2434
4 Australia 1879
5 Russia 919
6 France 789
7 Argentina 710
8 Colombia 701
9 Germany 663
10 Venezuela 592

Full list.

Perhaps to be expected the US has the most airports, but I did not expect it to be almost 18,000 more than the second placed country, Brazil. Although most of the airports in the US are classified a small (private) airports, 21.5k airports is still a huge number!

Worlds highest / lowest airports

elevation_rank type name country elevation_ft elevation_mt
1 heliport Siachen Glacier AFS Airport India 22000 6,706
2 small_airport Daulat Beg Oldi Advanced Landing Ground India 16200 4,938
3 small_airport Laguna Choclococha Airport Peru 14965 4,561
4 small_airport Fausa Airport Peru 14809 4,514
5 small_airport San Rafael Airport Peru 14422 4,396
46231 small_airport Brawley Municipal Airport United States -128 -39
46232 small_airport Ein Yahav Airfield Israel -164 -50
46233 small_airport Cliff Hatfield Memorial Airport United States -182 -55
46234 small_airport Furnace Creek Airport United States -210 -64
46235 medium_airport Bar Yehuda Airfield Israel -1266 -386

Full list.

To give this some perspective, Mount Everest stands at 8848 meters — just 2000 meters higher than Siachen Glacier AFS Airport, India. In fact, this airport (heliport) would rank just outside the top 100 highest mountains. Sadly, it only serves a military purpose, but all credit to the pilots flying at that elevation! The highest large airport is Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport in Peru at 3310 meters above sea level.

At the other end of the scale, Bar Yehuda Airfield in Israel lies 386 meters below sea level. The English Channel is only 120m deep.

Worlds longest runways

runway length rank type name country length_ft length_mt surface
1 seaplane_base Pontiac Airpark Water Aerodrome Canada 120,000 36,576 water
2 seaplane_base Gunflint Seaplane Base United States 30,000 9,144 water
3 seaplane_base Libby Camps Seaplane Base United States 26,000 7,925 water
4 seaplane_base Brookville Reservoir Seaplane Base United States 25,000 7,620 water
5 seaplane_base Long Lake Seaplane Base United States 25,000 7,620 water
6 seaplane_base Conchas Lake Seaplane Base United States 21,120 6,427 water
7 medium_airport Qamdo Bangda Airport China, People’s Republic of 18,045 5,500 concrete
8 seaplane_base Goddard Seadrome Seaplane Base United States 17,000 5,182 water
9 medium_airport Ulyanovsk East Airport Russia 16,404 5,000 concrete
10 medium_airport Pierre Van Ryneveld Airport South Africa 16,076 4,900 asphalt

Full list.

No that’s not a typo, Pontiac Airpark Water Aerodrome has a runway that’s 36.5 km long (it is water runway for seaplanes). The longest traditional runway is at Qamdo Bangda Airport in China at 5.5km. The runway needs to be so long because of the elevation of the airport (4333m). When the air is thinner (at altitude) it takes longer for a plane to take-off and land.

The runway at Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport in Saba (in the Caribbean) runs a mere 396m, making it the world’s shortest commercial runways (excluding heliports).

Improvements

I would be very interested in analysing how much traffic some of the runways with notable characteristics receive and any associated accident information, especially those with a high elevation.

tl;dr

The United States has 21.4k airports. That’s almost 18k more than any other country.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

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