My textbook on air law says the following about Rule 41 of the Rules of the Air:-

A person shall not, without permission, go onto a part of an aerodrome provided for the use of aircraft. This applies to any part that is not a public right of way.

It seems unlikely that you would have a public right of way across the manoeuvring area or apron of an aerodrome. How common is this?

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    $\begingroup$ apart from Gibraltar, you mean? :P $\endgroup$ – Federico Aug 8 '15 at 18:25

Obviously, putting publically-accessible areas within an airport's apron, taxiways, or runway environments is normally avoided as much as possible. However, sometimes space constraints don't give you another option. As Federico mentioned in a comment, Gibraltar International Airport is a famous example of this. A major city street runs right through the center of the runway:

Gibraltar International Airport runway
Gibraltar International Airport's runway with traffic on the street stopped for BA aircraft

In this case, the runway runs the entire width of the peninsula. Obviously, they had to allow traffic to pass back and forth from one side to the other somehow, so one of the main city streets passes right through the middle of the runway and they just stop traffic on the street when the runway is in use.

Of course, another way to solve this problem is to do what Nashville International Airport and Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (and probably several others) have done and just send the road through a tunnel under the runway. I'm not sure how feasible that would be at Gibraltar's low elevation, though (i.e. might have water problems in the tunnel.)

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Murfreesboro Road passing underneath Runway 2C/20C, Nashville International Airport

Runway 10/28, Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport
Interstate 285 passing underneath Runway 10/28, Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport

I would expect that the main reason where you have situations like the one in Gibraltar is probably economics. For low-traffic airports, it's a lot easier to just stop the traffic than to build a big tunnel capable of supporting a large aircraft. For higher-traffic airports (like Nashville and, especially, Atlanta,) though, the tunnel is required as there are flights landing or taking off constantly (not to mention the security and safety risks of having cars driving around within the airport.) According to its Wikipedia page, Gibraltar International only has about 10 flights per day (3,564 total in 2013,) so it's manageable to just close the road when the runway is in use. I expect other airports with these sorts of crossings will be similarly low-traffic airports (or, at least, a low-traffic part of the airport.)

  • $\begingroup$ I think it's less about the elevation and more about the terrain. The ground under most of this peninsula is solid rock. $\endgroup$ – KeithS Aug 11 '15 at 15:39
  • $\begingroup$ @KeithS As far as I know, the same is true of Nashville. That's what dynamite is for. :) We frequently have to blast through rock to build roads and such here. $\endgroup$ – reirab Aug 11 '15 at 15:46
  • $\begingroup$ True. As far as I know, tunneling is by far the more popular option. Addison airport here in DFW is a Class D facility with a tunnel for Keller Springs Road running under its runway (it's fairly recent, like the last 10 years or so, and it's notable because the airport just kept right on running during construction). Underpasses for taxiways are so common it's not even worth mentioning specific examples; practically every airport with a center-terminal layout, or that's been expanded beyond its original land area, has at least one photo-op of a 747 passing over the top of a busy roadway. $\endgroup$ – KeithS Aug 11 '15 at 15:56
  • $\begingroup$ @KeithS Yep. In fact, both of the pictured examples of runways over tunnels above also have other taxiways going over roads (the taxiway connecting 2R/20L to the terminal at Nashville and the one connecting 10/28 to the terminal at Atlanta.) Gibraltar apparently only has about 10 flights per day, so I guess they figured it wasn't worth the cost of building the runway over the road there. $\endgroup$ – reirab Aug 11 '15 at 16:02

Less busy than Gibraltar, but in the UK proper, Sumburgh in Shetland is an example of "road crossing the runway" on a relatively active airport - it even comes complete with level crossing gates, which are a startling thing to see on the road ahead when you know there's no railway!

Aircraft landing at Sumburgh, seen from the road


My local aerodrome has a café underneath the control tower. To get to it, you have to go air-side and cross the main taxiway. There is no control on this - absolutely anybody can park up and walk over.

It's not strictly a public right of way, but I'm sure one exists somewhere.

With that said, I think you may be reading a little to much into it - the primary thing to take from that paragraph is that the Air Navigation Order can not override a public right of way.


Quite a number of airports in Switzerland have roads cross airports. This one is Alpnach Airport

Alpnach Airport


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