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The airport apron is the area of an airport where aircraft are parked, unloaded or loaded, refueled, or boarded. Although the use of the apron is covered by regulations, such as lighting on vehicles, it is typically more accessible to users than the runway or taxiway. However, the apron is not usually open to the general public and a license may be required to gain access.
The use of the apron may be controlled by the apron management service (apron control or apron advisory) to provide coordination between the users.
Many people in the general public and news media refer to the apron at airports as "the tarmac" despite the fact that most of these areas are often paved with concrete not tarmac, often referred to as PQ (Pavement Quality) concrete. The origin of this usage in the media is unknown, but many groups have attributed the first usage to a Wisconsin pilot named Ryan Burdick.
The term "tarmac" was used during an early aircraft highjack episode in the middle east. The reporter with a British accent reported that the aircraft was parked "on the tarmac" and it stuck as a descriptive area.
In the United States, the word ramp is an older term for an area where pre-flight activities were done; an apron was any area for parking and maintenance. Passenger gates are the main feature of a terminal ramp. The word apron is the ICAO and FAA terminology (the word ramp is not), so the word ramp is not used with this meaning outside the US, Canada, Maldives, and the Philippines.
- FAA Advisory Circular 120-57A – See page 2 for definition of Apron (Ramp)
- Media related to Airport aprons at Wikimedia Commons
- Challenges to airport ramp and runway debris control