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Facilities Layout Applied in the General Aviation Airport Planning Industry

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Aviation
Wordcount: 4773 words Published: 23rd Sep 2019

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Facilities Layout Applied in the General Aviation Airport Planning Industry





Purpose: This paper discusses how facilities layouts can further aid to improve airport planning within the general aviation industry. A well-designed airport allows for easier travel for individuals as well as faster travel. This creates a more holistic and user-friendly customer service experience.

Design/methodology/approach: The paper is in the form of literature review. Covering related research from various platforms, which have been studied, explored, discussed, synthetized and concluded and which are now being presented.

Findings: It was found that general aviation facilities layout is important and needed. The general aviation industry contributes to various operations which account for over 5 percent of the national GDP. There are many parts of the facilities layout with regards to general aviation. Each airport has site-specific needs depending on upon the aircraft, climate, frequency, and the type of operation(s) at that particular general aviation airport. There are many facility layout planning models. The real-world examples found for general aviation facilities layout were pairwise exchange method and graph-based method.

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Research limitations/implications: Searching through only peer review articles some magazine and trade articles may become lost. But by narrowing the scope of search and basing the conclusion on more rigorous investigation limit the peer review was selected. Due to picking general aviation airports instead of commercial airports it was harder to collect information. There are limitations to the Pairwise Exchange Method and the Graph Based Method.

Originality/value: This work is a synthesis of the latest advancement in the field of facilities layout, with emphasis on general aviation airport planning, providing a base for researchers in this field to work on future advancement.


Airport Planning-General Aviation-Facilites Layout-Literature Review-Industrial Engineering

1. Introduction

The field of airport planning, specifically regarding general aviation faces many challenges today. General aviation or GA is defined as the largest category of aviation and consists of all activity not considered to be commercial service or military. [1] Aviation is an important and necessary part of the modern-day era—it is the most popular method for people traveling internationally. In today’s globalized world economy consumers require faster, more accurate, more convenient, and flawless service. Facilites layout consists of all equipment, machinery, and furnishings within a building’s envelope. The facilities layout is important because each consumer will be interacting with parts of the layout while traveling through an airport to reach their destination.


2. Background

The following five themes will be explored to properly outline the term paper’s goals.

  • General aviation airports are important.

There are four main types of aviation. These include commercial airlines, non-scheduled air transport operations, military, and general aviation. Commercial airlines are the type of aviation most people use to travel long distances. Examples of such airlines include American Airlines, Delta, JetBlue, Emirates, Lufthansa, etc. A non-scheduled airline offers unscheduled air transport services of passengers or goods at an hourly or per mile/kilometer charge for chartering the entire aircraft along with the crew. [2] Another type of aviation is military, this is pretty much self-explanatory. Finally, general aviation includes all civilian flying except scheduled passenger airline services. [3] These operations consist of business, sightseeing, search and rescue, training, recreational, survey, aerial ambulance, and a variety of other purposes used to complete the world’s transportation system. Ranging in size from a small two-seat to a large airline-size aircraft, these operations contribute significantly to the economies of the nations in which they fly. [4] GA is used mainly for four types of operation including business, recreation, training, and special.

It is also important to note that GA activity can occur at any airport and sometimes uses a joint airport that utilizes more than one type of aviation. An example of this would be a joint commercial airlines and GA airport. An example of this is the General Aviation Terminal at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

Over 90 percent of the civilian aircraft registered in the United States are GA aircraft. Also, almost 5/6 or 83.33 percent of the United States pilots fly GA airplanes.

Figure 1: General Aviation Airplane Shipments and Billings Worldwide (1994 – 2016) [5]

In Figure 1, millions of dollars were made from GA airplanes being sold and being shipped. Some of these general aviation aircraft include the single-engine piston, multi-engine piston, turboprop, and business jets.

Aviation accounts for more than 5 percent of our [the United States] Gross Domestic Product, contributes $1.6 trillion in total economic activity and supports nearly 11 million jobs. [6] Thus, it is evident that GA is of critical importance to our nation’s economy.

  • Facilities layout for general aviation airports is needed.

Facilities layout is one of the three critical parts of the facilities design process. The generation and evaluation of layout alternatives is a critical step in the facilities planning process, since the layout selected will serve to establish the material flow patterns and physical relationships between activities. Recognizing that the layout ultimately selected will be either chosen from or based on one of the alternatives generated, it is important to for the facilities planner to be both creative and comprehensive in generating a reasonable number of layout alternatives. [7]


While there is much information on facilities layout with regards to commercial airports, the facilities layout of GA is critical too. Evidently, in today’s modern era, a well-planned and facilities layout is much needed with regards to GA airport planning. Current guidance for GA facility layout is limited and does not reflect the changes occurring in the industry. [1] This point is further highlighted in Figure 1.

The Federal Aviation Administration or FAA decrees that each GA airport must have an airport master plan. One of the critical parts of the master plan is the Airport Layout Plan or ALP. An ALP is package of plans that present the existing and future development of the airport. As a condition of receiving grants, the FAA requires airport sponsors to maintain a current ALP all times. The ALP is developed following specific guidelines identified in FAA AC 150/5300-13, Airport Design. [1] The ALP is a facilities layout.


  • The main ‘parts’ to create the ‘whole’ and the ‘parts’ interiors are vital to the airport facility layout.

The ‘parts’ needed to create the ‘whole’ facility layout often vary upon the aircraft, climate, frequency, and the type of operation(s) at a general aviation airport. Each airport must assess the specific needs of its individual location. No two airports are alike and, therefore, require individual planning to meet site-specific needs. [1] These site-specific needs include aircraft services, ground services, airport operation services, and general aviation facilities. Aircraft services includes but not limited to aircraft parking, aircraft storage, fueling services, aircraft maintenance, aircraft rental, flight services, and aircraft washing. Ground services includes but not limited to waiting areas, ground transportation, vending/catering, and pilot services. Airport operation services includes but not limited to grass mowing, snow removal, and aircraft rescue and firefighting (ARFF). General aviation facilities include but not limited to runways, taxiways, aprons, hangars (conventional and T-Hangars), fueling facilities, heliport and helicopter parking pad, airfield lighting/signage/navigational aids, terminal/administrative building (including FBO or fixed-based operators), airport rescue and firefighting, automobile parking and landside access, aircraft wash facility, other buildings, and security.

The site-specific ‘parts’ listed above is a relatively through list of potential ‘parts’ that could make up the ‘whole’ of the facility layout (some if not many of these ‘parts’ will be used). However, a GA airport and its user typically need the following main ‘parts’ for a facility layout: GA terminal building, aircraft parking apron, hangars, fuel facilities, automobile parking, wash racks, fixed-base operations (FBOs), and helicopter parking.

  • GA Terminal Building

The terminal building is the focal point for basic meeting/greeting and pilot services. GA terminals should at least provide the services of a passenger lounge, restrooms, vending, and a pilot lounge. The building square footage or BSF can be found using equation 1. Peak-Hour Operations is a number taken from the Master Plan and an area of 100 to 150 square feet of space per person is considered adequate during peak-hour traffic. [1] A sample GA terminal building is seen below in Figure 4.


Figure 2: Sample GA Terminal Building Layout [1]

  • Aircraft Parking Apron

An aircraft parking apron (or airport apron), sometimes known as the tarmac, is the area of an airport where aircraft are parked/boarded, loaded/unloaded, or refueled. An aircraft apron is typically the largest facility on an airport, except for the runway and possible the parallel taxiway (paths connecting runways. There are two different ways to approach the sizing of an apron. One is based on the space available in the location chosen for the apron; the other is based on the number of tie-down parking positions needed. [1] A sample apron layout is seen below in Figure 5.

Figure 3: Sample Apron Layout [1]

  • Hangars

There are two types of hangars which are conventional and T-Hangars. Conventional hangars are based on the square/rectangular or box shape. T-Hangars are rectangular shaped hangars split into numerous sections, often in the shape of a “T” that store multiple smaller aircraft. In Figures 6 and 7, the two different types of hangars are respectively shown. Hangars have considerable cross-over with other facilities such as apron planning, access planning, and mobile parking planning. Making hangars parallel and perpendicular to other facilities and airfield infrastructure provides for safer traffic flow and expendability. [1] A sample hangar apron configuration is in Figure 8 with no aircraft parking.

    Figure 4: Conventional (Box) Hangar Layout [1]                    Figure 5: T-Hangar Layouts [1]

Figure 6: Sample Layout of Hangar Pod with no Aircraft Parking [1]

  • Fuel Facilities

A fuel farm facility can be one of the costliest facilities on an airport that has limited or no funding from state or federal sources. The size of an aviation fuel farm will depend on the amount and types of fuel needed. [1] A sample fuel farm with sample dimensions is shown below in Figure 9.

Figure 7: Sample Fuel Farm Layout with Sample Dimensions [1]

  • Automobile Parking

Providing access and parking areas for airfield facilities should be integral to planning each of the facilites. Once a location is chosen, the size of the parking lot and the number of parking spaces will need to be determined. The size of each parking space and the number of spaces will most likely be determined by local parking guidelines. [1] A sample with automobile parking with 18 regular and 1 handicap spaces is shown below in Figure 10.

Figure 8: Sample Parking Lot Layout with 18 Regular and 1 Handicap Spaces [1]

  • Wash Racks

Aircraft wash facilites (wash racks) provide GA aircraft owners with a common area with access to water to wash and clean their aircraft. Wash racks are usually sized to accommodate one single aircraft a time however, depending on the demand and layout, multiple aircraft can be accommodated at the same time. A good rule of thumb would be to take the aircraft with the largest wingspan and greatest length that the airport would like to accommodate and add 10 feet (5 feet to each side). The 10 feet will capture overspray and provide room for personnel to walk around the aircraft. [1] A sample wash rack layout is shown in Figure 10.

Figure 9: A Sample Wash Rack Layout [1]

  • Fixed-Base Operations (FBOs)

An FBO building is very similar to a GA terminal building. They generally serve the same function except that a FBO building is usually privately or publicly owned and leased to a private entity. [1]

  • Helicopter Parking

Planning for a helicopter parking area on an airport requires special consideration given the nature of helicopter operations and the impact of rotor wash on the surrounding area. The size of the parking area will depend on the size and number of rotorcraft area. [1] A sample helicopter parking is shown below in Figure 11.

Figure 10: A Sample Helicopter Parking Layout [1]

  • Various facility layout planning models will be discussed.

An Airport Layout Plan or ALP requires the following elements: airport layout drawing, airport airspace drawing, inner portion of the approach surface drawing, terminal area drawing, land use drawing, airport property map, and airport departure surfaces. The drawings are critical to the facility layout planning models.

Most facility layouts can be viewed at two levels: the block and the detailed layout. The block layout shows the location, shape, and size of each planning department. The detailed layout shows the exact location of all equipment, work benches, and storage areas within each department. [7] Figure 2 is a block layout of a sample GA terminal building. Figure 7 is a detailed layout of a sample fuel far.

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Basic types of layout include product layout, product family layout, process layout, fixed product layout, and hybrid layout. While a fixed position layout is used in aircraft assembly because the workstations are brought to the material. This does not work once the GA airplane is being moved around the airport because the workstations or ‘parts’ are stationary, and the plane is now mobile. Such ‘parts’ are the aprons, hangars, sample wash rack, helicopter pads, etc.

Another type of layout planning is the Systematic Layout Planning or SLP. SLP uses input data to create a flow of materials (from-to chart) and activity relationship analysis (activity relationship art. From these two charts a relationship diagram is developed. The relationship diagram positions activities spatially. These proximities are used to reflect the relationship between pairs of activities. The amount of space assigned to each activity is determined (using departmental service and area requirement sheets). Once the space assignments have been made, space templates are developed for each planning department, and the space is then hung on the relationship diagram to obtain the space relationship. Based on considerations that may be modified and practical limitations, several layout alternatives are developed and evaluated (such as the graph-based method). The preferred alternative is then identified and recommended. While the involvements in performing SLP is relatively straightforward, it does not necessarily follow that difficulties do not arises in its application. The SLP procedure can be used to develop a block layout or a detailed layout for each planning department. [7]

Layout algorithms can be also classified according to their primary function: improvement versus construction. Improvement-type algorithms start with an initial layout and seek to improve the objective function through incremental changes in the layout. A construction-type layout algorithm assumes the building dimension are and are not given. [7]

Layout algorithms can be also classified according to their objective function. First, minimize the sum of flow times distance. This is more suitable when the input data is expressed as a from-to chart (or a material flow matrix). Second, maximize the closeness or adjacency. This is helpful when comparing two or more alternate layouts. One of the ways to solve this is the Pairwise Exchange Method. The Pairwise Exchange Method is an improvement layout algorithm. [7] This distance-based objective function (or “total cost” or TC for short) for the existing layout is the relationship (or flow) vector multiplied by distance vector. The original objective function is found via TC of department 1 to department n. The possible number of pairings varies depending on how many n departments there are. Then TC is calculated for each pairing. This is done by switching the places of the departments. If one of the new TC’s based on switching the departments via pairings is lower than original TC than another iteration takes placing making the lowest TC an almost ‘new’ original. This process continues until none of the new TC’s based on switching the departments via pairings a is lower than ‘newest’ original TC. This will result in the most optimal arrangement.

Graph based method is a construction-type algorithm. The method starts with an adjacency relationship chart. Then we assign weight to the adjacency relationships between departments. The relationship chart is converted from the from-to chart. The steps to graph based method are as follows. Step 1 is to select a department pair with the largest weight. Step 2 is to select a third department based on the largest sum of the weights with the two departments selected. Step 3 is to select the next unselected department to enter by evaluating the sum of weights and place the department on the face of the graph. The face of the graph is a bounded region of a graph. Step 4 is to continue step 3 until all departments are selected.  Step 5 is to construct a block layout from the planar graph. [7]

  • Examples of general aviation airports applying facility layout planning models will be shown.

The first example utilizes the Pairwise Exchange Method on Ningbo Airport Logistics Park. [8] With pairwise exchange method has no guarantee of optimality because the final solution depends on the initial layout. Also, the pairwise exchange method does not consider the size and shape pf the departments. [7] The results are:

Table 1: Logistics Volume V ad the Distance D [8]

Table 2: The Location of Available Assigned Points of These Five Regions [8]

Table 3: Initial Planning Program [8] [8]

Table 4: Objective Function Value W [8]

 Table 5: The First Improved Program [8] 

 Table 6: Objective Function Value W’ [8]

 Table 7: Final Planning Program [8] 

The most optimal arrangement is DABCE.

The second example utilizes the Graph Based Method on Brisbane International airport. [9] The Graph Based Method utilizes a relationship with various weights. Some of the limitations are the adjacency score does not account for distance, nor does it account for relationships than those between adjacent departments. Also, we are attempting to construct graphs, called planar graphs, whose arcs do not intersect. The results are:

Figure 11: Departure activities of airport terminal [9]

Figure 12: modified Business Process Model (mBPM) for the check-in process [9]

  Figure 13                Figure 14

Figure 13: Graph Representation of Check-In Facilities [9]

Figure 14: Turning Non-Planar Graph into Planar (G) using Intersecting Vertices [9]



Figure 15: A Possible Representation of Floor Plan Layout [9]

Figure 16: Block Layout from Planar Graph [9]


3. Methodology

This paper will be in the form of a literature review. This will include analyzing research papers from various accredited scientific platforms. Discussions and conclusions will be further presented to show the emphasis that facilities layout is having on general aviation airport planning.


4. Results

  1. General aviation airports contribute to business, recreation, training, and special operations. By contributing to these operations general aviation is part of the aviation sector which accounts for over 5 percent of the US’ GDP. Thus, it evident that GA is of critical importance to our nation’s economy.
  2. GA facility layout models have real-world applications and limitations.


5. Discussion

GA was chosen to be analyzed due to 90 percent of the aircraft in the US being GA aircraft. Thus, I decided it was worth analyzing. This is unlike most reports done on facility layout in aviation airport planning because most literature reviews analyze commercial airports and not general aviation aircraft. As such it was harder to find articles, websites and other sources of information regarding general aviation airport planning regarding facility layout. I eventually found documents to support the themes I wanted to discuss but it took a lot of research on my part finding the right journals, articles, etc. in scientific databases. The report contains a lot of data and information. I wish this paper could be over 10 pages, so I could do more analysis. Thus, to save space some figures are side-by-side instead of standing alone. I enjoyed this project and feel more informed about the subject.


6. Implication

The model illustrated will be a guideline for Industrial Engineers aiming to not only develop facilites layouts in the general aviation industry but beyond to other industries and applications.  This will also enhance the quality of customer service by creating a more user-friendly environment for all individuals involved.

7. Conclusion

Aviation has only been around for a little over a hundred years. And within that timespan it has become a critical part of our modern world and people’s everyday lives. Not only is GA facilities layout important its needed. Each airport has site-specific needs. The main ‘parts’ to create the ‘whole’ GA layout design are described and analyzed. Various facility layout planning models are discussed, compared, and identified in figures included in the file. Finally, these models are applied to real-world examples. Limitations to these models are also explored. Furthermore, a well-planned facility layout will be able to better suit the needs of an airport general aviation consumers thus increasing customer service.



  1. Sander, D. E., Chapman, R. B., Ward, S. A., Marr, S., & Arnold, S. (2014). Guidebook on General Aviation Facility Planning. ACRP – Airport Cooperation Research Program,113. Retrieved November 14, 2018.
  2. Bunker, D. H. (2005). International Aircraft Financing: General Principles (Vol. 1). Montreal, Quebec, Canada: IATA International Air Transport Association.
  3. What is General Aviation [Pamphlet]. (n.d.). Frederick, MD: AOPA Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.
  4. What is General Aviation. (n.d.). Retrieved November 14, 2018, from https://www.iaopa.org/what-is-general-aviation/
  5. 2016 General Aviation Statistical Databook & 2017 Industry Outlook (pp. 1-60, Rep.). (2016). Washington, DC: GAMA General Aviation Manufacturers Association.
  6. The Economic Impact of Civil Aviation on the U.S. Economy (pp. 1-36, Rep.). (2016). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Aviation Administration.
  7. Tompkins, J. A., White, J. A., Bozer, Y. A., & Tanchoco, J. A. (2010). Chapter 6 Layout Planning Models and Design Algorithms. In Facilities Planning (Fourth ed., pp. 292-381). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
  8. Jiang, C., Bai, L., & Zheng, W. (2010). Research on Layout of Airport Logistics Park Based on Graph Theory: An Empirical Study of Ningbo Airport Logistics Park. 2010 International Conference on Intelligent Computation Technology and Automation,6-9. Retrieved November 14, 2018.
  9. Shuchi, S., & Drogemuller, R. (2012). Using Process Model to Support Design and Re-configuration of an Airport Terminal. Using Process Model to Support Design and Re-configuration of an Airport Terminal. Retrieved November 14, 2018.


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