Manchester Airport is a major international airport located to the South of Manchester city centre. It is the third busiest airport in the UK and the busiest outside London. It has two runways both of 3,050m (10,000ft) in length, three passenger terminals, a cargo centre and several aircraft maintenance facilities.
The appearance of the airport is dominated by the vast "Western Apron" which measures 1,000 x 530 metres. There are also large concreted aprons that serve the number 1 and 3 terminals.
The Northernmost runway (05L/23R) is commonly known as "Runway 1" and has been in existence in one way or another since the airfield's creation. The Southern runway (05R/23L) was built in 2000 to accommodate more air traffic brought on by increasing passenger numbers that the original runway couldn't handle alone.
The runways are numbered according to their direction. Runways 23L and 23R are numbered as such because they point in a compass direction of 234 degrees from North, which can be rounded to "23". Runway 05L and 05R point 054 degrees from North hence the "05" designation. The "L" and "R" in the runway name is simply "left" and "right" in the parallel arrangement. Manchester only has two runways but because each direction of the runway is referred to separately there are actually four runway designations.
Aircraft always take-off and land into the wind. So if the wind is from the West or South, the runway 23s will be in use - and if the wind is from the North or East the 05s will be used.
The wind doesn't however determine whether aircraft will be using the "L" or "R" runways. Because the runways at Manchester are parallel it would be possible to use either for departing or arriving aircraft but there are a few complications. For example, the start of runway 05R is 2.5 miles from the terminals and because there's no taxiway to it, aircraft would have to taxi along the runway thereby not allowing any landings to take place. Therefore runway 05R is used exclusively for landings. Similar applies to runway 23L, any aircraft landing on 23L would have to turn around on the runway to get back to the terminals, this would waste lots of time and reduce the possible number of landings per hour. Therefore runway 23L is used exclusively for departures.
During quieter hours of operations the Southern "Runway 2" is closed completely because the extra capacity is not required. During these hours take-off and landings both occur on the North "Runway 1" - either runway 05L or 23R depending on the wind.
This is the usual runway configuration at Manchester:
05L - Take-offs during dual runway operations, take-offs and landings during single runway operations.
05R - Landings during dual runway operations, closed during single runway operations.
23R - Landings during dual runway operations, take-offs and landings during single runway operations.
23L - Take-offs during dual runway operations, closed during single runway operations.
The vast amount of action occurs at Manchester in the morning and evening. Between 7am and 9am the majority of the transatlantic traffic arrives, these aircraft then depart again before midday. At lunchtime the daily Emirates Airbus A380 arrives from Dubai and departs again mid-afternoon. The afternoon is dominated by charters and budget airlines from around Europe but some "heavy" aircraft such as the ones from Qatar and Abu Dhabi make appearances. In the evening the budget airlines and charters return. Overnight the airport is usually relatively quiet, with some charters from the Mediterranean and low-cost flights arriving in the early hours. Cargo aircraft are also regular at Manchester with Lufthansa Cargo, FedEx and Air Contractors all operating regular cargo flights feeding Manchester's "World Freight Terminal".