What's in a name - airports defined

The following definitions are based on the Australian regulatory framework for aviation.


Manual of Standards Part 139—Aerodromes (MOS 139) defines an aerodrome as:
A defined area on land or water (including any buildings, installations, and equipment) intended to be used either wholly or in part for the arrival, departure and surface movement of aircraft.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) generally uses the term ‘aerodrome’ in its legislative instruments.

Defence airfields, registered and certified aerodromes and ALAs are all types of aerodrome. This term is used for the purpose of describing the various types of developments which support aircraft operations.


This term is commonly used by the military to describe its aerodromes and is used interchangeably by many with the term airport.


This is a generic term used to describe what is perceived to be a larger aerodrome with substantial facilities. It is also the term used in Australia’s Aviation Transport Security Act 2004 and Aviation Transport Security Regulations 2005 (in lieu of ‘aerodrome’).


An airstrip is generally perceived as a basic aerodrome with minimal facilities, but is not normally defined in planning or legislative instruments. This term is often used to minimise the perceived scale of an aerodrome development.


MOS 139 defines an ALA as:
Aircraft landing area, being an area for the landing, movement and take-off of aircraft that is not a certified or registered aerodrome.
Note this definition was recently amended by replacing ‘aeroplane landing area’ with ‘aircraft landing area’ to include consideration of rotary wing aircraft.

Certified aerodrome

Civil Aviation Safety Regulations 1998, Part 139—Aerodromes (CASR 139), reg 139.040, requires that:
an aerodrome must be certified if it:

(a) has a runway that is suitable for use by aircraft having:

(i) a maximum passenger seating capacity of more than 30 seats; or
(ii) a maximum carrying capacity of more than 3 400 kilograms; and

(b) is available for use in regular public transport operations or charter operations by such aircraft.

Registered aerodrome

CASR 139 reg 139.030 requires than an aerodrome must be registered if there is a terminal instrument flight procedure for the aerodrome.

Note that CASA intends to remove 'registered' aerodrome from CASR 139 and have all aerodromes that are regulated become 'certified'.

Tags: Airport, Aerodrome, Airfield, ALA, Airstrip

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