A friend of mine lives exactly 5 miles from a small but busy airport that accepts commercial traffic (small commercial jets). Yesterday I noticed that many airplanes were flying low right over his house on the approach to the airport. They seemed to be following the same route. The main runway points in the direction of this house. Is there a technical name for the several mile 'air road' that leads to the airport runway? Edit: Airport is Teterboro Airport (TEB).
The best term to describe it would be the 'final approach segment', which is defined by ICAO as:
This is the segment in which alignment and descent for landing are made. Final approach may be made to a runway for a straight-in landing, or to an aerodrome for a visual manoeuvre.
The FAS begins at the PFAF and ends at the landing threshold point (LTP). The FAS is typically aligned with the runway centerline extended. The segment OEA is divided into the FAS OCS and the visual segment obstacle identification surface (OIS).
From a controllers point of view it's the extended centerline (the middle markings on a runway are called centerline), from a pilots point of view it's called final (approach).
In the US almost all (99.99999999%) of commercial flights are IFR flights. Meaning that the pilot uses the instruments to fly the plane instead of looking out a window. In the real world, the pilot may not even be able to see anything useful out of the window. Usually they can "see" the runway, but that's not always true either and not really important for this answer. What is important is that most if not all commercial flights are IFR flights.
So if you take a look at this chart https://skyvector.com/files/tpp/1704/svg/00416IL19R.svg you will see that all instrument approaches to runway 19 R are funneled down this same path. You will also see that oval that looks like it's in the middle of the path.
So what happens, in a broad sense is that planes come in an a vector (normally) and then then are either already on that approach, OR are "worked" into that approach depending on "stuff" (like GPS, VOR, or other navigation means). Then they get put into that holding pattern. (the oval in the middle of the path) The oval is a set of headings that you follow for about 60 seconds each, making a "1 min turn" at each end. So you would essentially fly in this oval till it was your turn to land. Then finally ATC would clear you for landing (other stuff may happen in the mean time), you would then execute your "Final Approach" which would, when flying ILS mean either "capturing" the glide scope (for auto landings) or making sure your CDI (a device in the cockpit that tells you if your off course) is in the right spot, and doing the normal stuff like slowing down and sticking your wheels out (again much more happens in this phase but it's dependent upon the aircraft more then anything else, but almost every aircraft that lands on the ground will have some kind of wheels and a CDI of some kind is required for IFR flight).
That "vector" extends quite a way, and it's not uncommon at some airports to have that vector extend well beyond their ATC zone. That last tiny bit where the airplane is coming down is usually referred to as three separate things.
- The Final Approach [vector] by pilots as that is the vector they use for that maneuver.
- The [Extended] center line by ATC, as on their devices that is what it is. The center of the runway, extended back far enough that aircraft can line up with it.
- Approach Corridor , by media and newspapers and others. While it's not a proper term, it's a common one.
What's important to know is that EVERY IFR flight landing at that runway will use that approach. If they can't then they have to use a different runway (it's how the radio signals work). Add to that the fact that a busy but small airport will likely have all it's landing on one runway, while all it's take offs are on another (or may just all it's landings from a direction) It's really hard to tell. It's up to the airport. But it would not be unheard of for an Airport to say that all landings happen on (in our example) 19R or 1L.
It's also not uncommon for bad weather or other issues to force traffic to an "unusual" runway. For example really strong East to West winds might cause the airport to make aircraft land on runway 10 or 28. In addition there may be city or state rules that affect what runway can be used.
And thus you get a lot of traffic, over a small area of sky.
A word I hear often is "approach corridor", which kind of describes what you're talking about.