Why don’t airport runways have a ramp at the end to help the plane get off the ground?



On some aircraft carriers, a ski-jump is used at the end of the runway to help aircraft take off. The jump reduces the space required to take off (which is rather limited on a ship) and allows a higher take-off weight, which means more fuel and more ammunition can be carried.



However, there are downsides too. First off, the jump puts more stress on the airframe, requiring a beefier aircraft structure. Secondly, the take-off must be a success or it will be a major failure. If the aircraft doesn’t get enough speed to take off, it will fall in the sea, or if on land, will crash into the ground. Thirdly, it forces the runway to be unidirectional. You can only land from the non-ski-jump end. Not a big problem for a ship which can turn round, but an issue for a ground-based airport that wants to land planes into the wind and has to cope with changeable weather.



For military aircraft, some of the above downsides are worth it for the additional payload and shorter take-off run. They can accept the risks. For commercial and private aircraft, the risk/return ratio is rather different. Commercial airlines give high priority to safety. They can’t accept the risk of an aborted take-off but no runway space to brake and stop on. They can’t accept not landing in the best direction for the current weather. They need runways to operate both ways as required. They can’t accept the extra maintenance and construction costs for the stronger aircraft required by a jump.



Ultimately, the airlines just don’t need ski-jumps. The world is full of long land-based airports that have more than enough length to allow even the largest jets to land. For smaller airports, there is usually less demand, so airlines can operate smaller aircraft, with shorter take-off runs, to serve those locations.



 



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What is an Airport?



The day has finally arrived! You are at the airport and about to board the plane that will take you on your dream holiday. There are many things you need to do at the airport before takeoff.



At the check-in counter, an airline worker checks you in, tells you which seat is yours, and gives you a boarding pass. Your luggage is put onto a moving belt. It carries your suitcase through rubber flaps in the wall to large bins that are wheeled to the plane. You are told which departure gate your plane will leave from.



At the security check, you and other travellers may also pass through a gate that has special machines. The machines make sure nobody is carrying anything dangerous.



At the departure gate, another airline worker takes your boarding pass. You are ready to board the plane.



You may have to walk through a tunnel or upstairs to get to the plane. When you enter the plane, a flight attendant helps you find your seat. There is a bin above your head in which to put your coats, small bags, or toys. Of course, you fasten your seat belt!



Suddenly the plane’s engines roar to life. The plane is moving! Slowly, at first, then faster and faster down a long paved path called a runway. Finally, you’re up in air! Sit back and enjoy the ride.



 



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Why do people fly?



Aeroplanes and helicopters are two ways to get far in a hurry. They carry people and goods thousands of metres above the ground.



The first thing you might notice about an aeroplane is its wings. When an aeroplane starts moving, the special shape of its wings helps it rise in the air and fly. Under the aeroplane wings are its engines. The fastest planes have jet engines that help them travel halfway around the world – from Chicago, Illinois, to Kolkata (Calcutta), India – in about 15 hours! Sometimes people can watch a film, listen to music or eat a meal or a snack while flying in the clouds.



Helicopters do not have the same type of wings that aeroplanes do.  A helicopter is powered by whirling blades that lift it into the sky. Helicopters are not as fast as most aeroplanes, but they can change directions and land more easily. They can fly forwards, upwards, and sideways. They can also hover, or stay in one place in the air.



The world’s largest passenger aeroplane, the Airbus A380, made its first commercial flight in 2007. The Airbus can seat more than 525 passengers.



 



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Why do people travel by train?



They can move people at speeds of more than 320 kilometres per hour. They carry goods weighing thousands of tonnes across a continent. Almost every country has them, and many children collect toy models of them. What are they? Trains!



Every day, in many places throughout the world, trains carry thousands of people along railway tracks. People who want to travel from one city to another use trains. Many people who live in one town and work in another take a train to work. Some trains make longer trips. They have beds for sleeping and serve meals in dining cars.



Subways are underground city trains that zoom people from place to place. Elevated trains crisscross a city on tracks that are built above the streets.



 



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Why do people ride buses?



The bus driver eyes the back of the school bus. “Stay in your seats”, he says firmly and loudly enough to be heard over the roar of the engine and the noisy chatter of the children on their way to school. But buses come in all different sizes and colours, depending on how they are used. Not only do buses take children to and from school, but they also take people to and from work, shops, or parks. People often take buses on trips to other cities, across the country, or on group holidays. Tour buses take groups of people to see a city’s important places.



Buses can carry up to about 70 passengers, but they take up much less space than 70 cars. They cause less pollution because they use less fuel per person than cars do. They also cost less per person to ride on and operate.



 



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