Do runways of the airports have some special kind of tar or protective layer to avoid the wear and tear in comparison to that of the Highways as they need to handle the much high pressure and the weights than normal highways?


3 Answers 3


Airport designers may use any type of material, based on construction research status and local meteorological conditions. Pavements may be flexible or rigid. There is no single technique to protect against wear and tear, and none specific to airports, this is similar to regular road construction.

Information on pavement types at Texas Dept of Transportation. E.g. a rigid pavement:

enter image description here

FAA provides advisories to help designers. ICAO requires airports to report their pavement characteristics.

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(source: Detroit Free Press)

FAA documentation related to pavement design:

ICAO requires member states to report aerodrome-related aeronautical data, including pavement strength. The standardized method is known as the Pavement Classification Number (ACN-PCN) method.

As a critical characteristic of a pavement is the friction, this matter is refined in Measurement, Construction, and Maintenance of Skid-Resistant Airport Pavement Surfaces. This document includes data on rubber removal frequency, e.g.

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Busy runway end:

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(source: Bridgepoint Road Markings Ltd)

A technique for rubber removal:

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(source: Waterblasting Technologies)

This thesis describes how to optimize runway pavements in order to increase friction and how to remove rubber deposit:

Optimizing Airport Runway Performance by Managing Pavement Infrastructure by Samantha Theresa Pinto. Note that:

Rubber accumulation on a dry runway is generally not a problem since the rubber interaction between the aircraft tire and the rubber on the runway creates traction that may actually improve friction. However, in wet conditions, rubber accumulation leads to loss of friction on the runway by clogging the pavement texture and creating an especially slick surface with minimal drainage capability when the runway surface is wet. Additionally, rubber accumulation causing decreased friction values means pilots have less directional control of the aircraft than expected on a bare and dry runway.

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    $\begingroup$ Note that some surface materials are less ideal than others. There's a set of photos out there showing the results of a 737 doing an engine run-up on paving bricks. $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Commented Jan 20, 2015 at 11:00
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    $\begingroup$ Thank you for the quote from the thesis. I was wondering about that since I'm an F1 fan, and one of the biggest issues they have is going to an infrequently used track and waiting for it to "get rubbered in". I.e. get enough rubber on the track that the tires will get improved traction. Of course, if it rains, they run a "wet line" which avoids the rubbered part of the track, because it's very slippery. I had been wondering and was going to ask the difference - I guess there isn't one. $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Commented Jan 20, 2015 at 16:39
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    $\begingroup$ This is to please @Mark and everyone! Caution, bricks crossing at low altitude :-( $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Commented Jan 20, 2015 at 18:23

To withstand the heavy loads of heavy aircraft landing, the runway mainly needs sufficiently strong foundation and that can be done by simply making it sufficiently thick. Concrete is recommended for airport accepting very heavy aircraft like A380, but it's not always an option because concrete is very rigid and thus requires stable ground and some airport, like the new Hong Kong International Airport built partly on reclaimed land, don't have that luxury.

For surface wear, note that while a runway experiences heavier and faster movements, there is much fewer of them than on a busy motorway.


Nothing special is needed for light aircraft. Most don't even require a paved surface. Western airliners and military are happiest on thick concrete surfaces. Most Russian airliners and military aircraft with their bigger wheels/tires can operate from dirt runways.

  • $\begingroup$ Small aircraft definitely don't need but my question is more specific towards Jumbo jets like A-380 or B-787s. $\endgroup$
    – NitinG
    Commented Jan 20, 2015 at 7:14

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