Category Transport

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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Why people ride cars and motorcycles?

Before cars were invented, people walked, cycled, rode animals, or rode vehicles pulled by animals to work or to visit friends and family. So people usually lived near their work and family.

The invention of the car allowed people to live further away from their work. Today, cars zoom over roads and motorways to take people to work. Cars also take people to the homes of friends and family. Many people drive to holiday spots such as theme parks, national parks, mountains, or seashores.

There are more than 650 million passenger cars in the world. While cars help people in many ways, they cause problems, too. These problems include accidents, pollution, and frustrating traffic jams. Many people try to help by giving lifts to other people. Some countries have special motorways where one lane is only for cars with more than one person in them.

In some countries, motorcycles are a popular way to get to work. Most motorcycles are less expensive than cars and take up less space. Many police officers use motorcycles because they are small enough to move easily through traffic.

Some cars are able to give directions! Cars that can do use GPS (Global Positioning System) technology. GPS can track the location of a car using a satellite. A device installed in the car allows it to map out a route based upon the car’s location.


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Why are there roads?

The road zigzags further and further upwards. You peer out of the car window and gulp as you look back. It’s a very long way down!

You are travelling over a mountain pass in the South Tyrol, Austria. It is too steep to go straight up, so the roads to the top wind backwards and forwards like a slithering snake.

Today, there are roads across all the countries of the world. Some are little more than dirt tracks, and others are six-lane or eight-lane motorways that carry heavy traffic in each direction.

Roads of some sort have existed for thousands of years. Often a road started as a rough track – the easiest route from one place to another. Over the years, the feet of people and animals wrote it down until it became a smooth, wide path. As towns grew, the paths became wider still. Some were covered with gravel, pebbles, or other materials to make them permanent roads.


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What is wheel power?

If walking is too slow, use wheels! A bicycle, skateboard, or pair of in-line skates can take you places you want to go. You can travel as far as the roads or paths – and your legs – will take you!

In China, few people own a car for personal use. Most people get around on bicycles, especially for travelling short distances. There are so many cyclists that special traffic police are needed to direct them on their way.

Some people use their wheels and their legs – to take other people where they want to go. Pedi cabs are popular in India and other parts of Asia. Comfortable seats at the back can hold two people, while the cyclist pulls them along.

Using muscle power does not cost a lot of money, and it can be fun, too. Be sure you know the rules of the road, and always pay attention to traffic. Keep your bike and safety equipment in good working order so you are ready to ride anytime.


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What needs a ramp to unload?

Tipper trucks have a lifting body that tips up to make a load slide out. Sometimes whole trucks are tipped up by a ramp instead! This truck is unloading grain into a grain store.

Which truck tows aircraft?

Airport tugs pull aircraft around when the aircraft cannot use their engines. The tug has a tow bar that attaches to an aircraft’s front wheel. Its low body doesn’t bump into the fuselage.

Is it true? Cherry pickers are used to pick fruit.

No. Cherry picker is the nickname for a truck with a working platform on the end of an extending arm. A worker on the platform can do jobs such as changing bulbs in street lamps.

Which trucks carry rubbish?

Garbage trucks drive around collecting rubbish. A mechanism lifts garbage bins, turns them upside down and shakes them to empty their contents into the truck. Then a powerful ram crushes the rubbish and squeezes it into the truck.

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What is a wrecker?

A wrecker is a recovery truck that tows away cars, buses and other vehicles that are wrecked in accidents, often blocking roads or lying in ditches. Wreckers need powerful diesel engines for towing and a winch for pulling vehicles that have tipped over back on to their wheels.

Amazing! Some cargo trucks carry a mini fork-lift truck with them for loading and unloading cargo. The fork-lift folds up and is carried attached to the back of the main truck.

Which truck saves lives?

An ambulance is a small truck specially adapted to carry injured and sick people quickly to hospital. There are stretchers for patients and emergency medical equipment in the back of the ambulance.

Is it true? Hospitals have wheels.

Yes. Mobile hospitals are mini hospitals inside a converted truck. They work in remote areas where people cannot get hospital treatment, and carry doctors, nurses and even an operating theatre.

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