Luchthavenfeitjes - Facts about airport Schiphol

Did you know that...

...Schiphol lies at the bottom of the former Haarlemmer lake?

The Haarlemmer lake was drained in 1852 and the first aircraft landed at Schiphol in 1916. Technically, the airport lies on the bottom of the lake, over four metres below sea level. Despite all of the various expansions, we have never moved from our original location. This makes Schiphol not only one of the world's most low-lying airports but also the oldest to occupy the same location.

…the first aircraft landed at Schiphol on 19 September 1916?

It was a military aircraft. Schiphol served exclusively as a military airport until 17 May 1920. On that day the first KLM flight took place from London to Amsterdam with a De Havilland DH-16. The pilot was Jerry Shaw. From that moment Schiphol became a civilian airport, too.

…the ‘Schiphol company’ is officially called the Schiphol Group, and ‘Schiphol airport’ is officially called Amsterdam Airport Schiphol?

In addition to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, the Schiphol Group also operates the Rotterdam, Eindhoven and Lelystad airports. The majority of buildings at the airport are owned by Schiphol Group, which itself has four owners: the State of the Netherlands (69.8%), Amsterdam (20.0%), Rotterdam (2.2%) and Aéroports de Paris (the company that operates the airports in the Paris region, 8.0%).

…we call Schiphol a ‘Mainport’?

It literally means ‘main port’. However, a Mainport is much more than that. A Mainport is a hub for many different modes of transport. In addition to planes, it includes cars, lorries and trains. For example, the high-speed train to Paris runs six to eight times a day.

As Mainport, Schiphol has important economic significance to the surrounding area. Around 65,000 people work here. Plus, in addition to Schiphol there are some 500 different companies located at the airport.

…Schiphol serves 108 airlines?

These airlines fly to 322 direct destinations in 95 countries. 27 of these destinations are for cargo only. Air France-KLM is the largest airline at Schiphol.

…there are several legends about the name Schiphol?

The most popular legend is that many boats sank on this site in what used to be the Haarlemmer lake. Consequently, this place became known as: ‘Schip Holl’ or ‘Scheepshol’. ‘Schip’ and ‘Scheep’ meaning ‘ship’, and ‘hol’ meaning ‘grave’ in this context.

Another explanation is that the name comes from the word ‘scheepshaal’. A ‘scheepshaal’ was a ditch used for towing ships from one lake to another.

A third explanation is that the name comes from ‘scip hol’, which is a low-lying patch of ground (‘hol’ as in ‘Holland’). The timber that grew on this site was used to build ships (‘scip’).

…the entire Schiphol site covers 2,787 hectares?

A hectare is 100 metres x 100 metres. In other words, 100x100 metres = 10,000 m². Schiphol therefore covers 27,870,000 m2.

…Schiphol is extremely important for the local economy as well as the economy of the Netherlands?

Schiphol provides thousands of jobs. There are 65,000 people working at the airport alone. The aviation sector employees a total of 300,000 people in the Netherlands. A huge source of jobs, in other words.

But Schiphol's economic influence extends even further. Because our airport has an extensive and easily accessible network of destinations, many companies and large multinationals from abroad set up offices in the Schiphol area. This generates additional jobs.

…Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is also referred to as an ‘AirportCity’?

Schiphol is actually a lot like a regular city, with shops, restaurants, offices, hotels, police, a pharmacy, you name it. Consequently, many people say that we are an airport-city. Given the highly international nature of our operations, we often use the English term ‘AirportCity’. And just like a real city, there is something to do at any hour, and many facilities are open to travellers, visitors and employees.

…there is a reason why there are five different runways?

The force and direction of the wind determine the runway assigned to arriving aircraft. Westerly winds are common in the Netherlands. On average, windforce ranges from 3 to 4. Between September and March, windforce can even go up to 5 – or higher! During this period, westerly storms are common. In the Netherlands, wind can come from any direction and at varying force, however, which is why Schiphol needs runways in different wind directions. This enables aircraft to always take off and land safely, no matter where the wind is coming from.

…aircraft take off and land into the wind whenever possible?

This is necessary in order to climb at a certain speed. We call this ‘lift’. Lift is created by the difference in pressure between the air that flows over and under the wing (higher pressure under the wing, and less above it). Basically, the aircraft is ‘lifted’. This is also why aircraft are equipped with flaps. These are parts of the aircraft that can be extended in order to give the aircraft sufficient lift during take-off and landing. The stronger the headwind, the earlier an aircraft takes off from the runway, and the less runway length it requires.

The same principle applies to the landing of an aircraft. This is likewise done into the wind. Although aircraft can land with a tailwind, it cannot be stronger than seven knots (a knot is 1852 metres per hour). If an aircraft has too much tailwind, the speed at which it lands will be too high. The aircraft will not brake as effectively, and it could go beyond the end of the runway.

Also, during a storm an aircraft must not be overly affected by crosswind. That is why Runway 06-24 ('Kaagbaan') and Runway 09-27 ('Buitenveldertbaan') are so important. These are the only two runways that aircraft can use for take-off and landing in the event of a strong south-westerly wind or westerly gale.

…there are three reasons for using the runways?

The wind is not the only reason why Schiphol needs so many runways. Another reason is noise.

If a given runway is used too much, certain residential areas are overly affected by the noise of the aircraft engines. Runway 18R-36L ('Polderbaan') can only be used for take-offs to and landings from the north, for example. Otherwise, Hoofddorp is overly affected. In other words, Schiphol does not always use the runways in both directions. Actually, it only has five half runways in operation.

The third reason for so many runways is because thousands of passengers have connecting flights at Schiphol. Each day, there are seven different peak times. During these peak times, dozens of KLM aircraft are landing and taking off, with passengers changing from one aircraft to another. Making sure all of these passengers fly on time requires using three runways at the same time.

…every runway at Schiphol has its own name and technical code?

The numbers in the code indicate the location of the runway. They correspond to the degrees on a magnetic compass (360 degrees). North is 360, East is 090, South is 180 and West is 270 degrees. The last 0 is omitted from the name. The numbers are exactly the opposite of what you would expect because it is the flight direction that counts: Runway 06-24 ('Kaagbaan') is located at 060 - 240 degrees, hence the code: 06-24. It runs northeast to southwest, in other words. Runway 18R-36L ('Polderbaan') is located at 180 - 360 degrees, which means the code is 18-36. It runs north to south.

However, because runways 18C-36C ('Zwanenburgbaan'), 18R-36L ('Polderbaan') and 18L-36R ('Aalsmeerbaan') are parallel to one another, the suffixes L (left), R(right) and C(centre) are used for clarification. A pilot approaching Schiphol from the north (180-degree course) sees three parallel runways: 18R-36L ('Polderbaan') on the right (18R), 18C-36C ('Zwanenburgbaan') in the middle (18C) and 18L-36R ('Aalsmeerbaan') on the left (18L). When approaching from the south, this is reversed: Runway 18R-36L ('Polderbaan') on the left (36L), Runway 18C-36C ('Zwanenburgbaan') in the centre (36C) and Runway 18L-36R ('Aalsmeerbaan') on the right.

…Runway 18R-36L is the newest and the longest runway at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol?

This runway was being called ‘the fifth runway’ even before it opened. The official opening was on 13 February 2003. Plans for this runway had been in the works since 1967.

…the aircraft using Schiphol transport cargo, too?

Previously, cargo primarily consisted of post, newspapers, medicine and flowers. Today, virtually all types of goods are transported by air. These include modern electronics, animals and highly perishable products, such as meat, fish, vegetables, fruit and flowers. Let's be honest: you can't put a horse on a ship for three weeks. In other words, air transport is especially important when something must be sent quickly.

For example, certain types of fresh tropical fruit from places like South America would rot well before they reached the Netherlands if shipped by sea. Organs for donor transplants likewise must reach their intended destination quickly. The same goes for machine parts and emergency assistance in response to disasters around the world.

In 2015, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol was Europe's third largest airport in cargo volume (1.6 million tonnes). With 52.8 million passengers, we are Europe's fifth largest airport in terms of passenger transport.

…our national airline is KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, which is based at Schiphol?

KLM was founded in 1919, three years after Schiphol was established. The first civilian aircraft landed at Schiphol on 17 May of that year: a double-decker De Havilland DH-16 leased by KLM from London. The two English journalists on board were Schiphol's first non-military (civilian) passengers. KLM was taken over by Air France in 2004 and are now collectively called: Air France-KLM.

Do you want to know more?