• What difference to the pilot does it make it say a runway is Concrete or Asphalt?

  • Does it require different information in the flight management system or other calculations?

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    $\begingroup$ more important than the surface would be the foundation, you will want to avoid potholes $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 10:07
  • $\begingroup$ Are you only concerned about Concrete and Asphalt surfaces, or are you also interested in more esoteric surfaces (gravel, grass, PSP, etc.) $\endgroup$
    – voretaq7
    Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 20:37

2 Answers 2


Concrete is better for certain large airports. Asphalt never completely hardens, and will always behave like an extremely viscous liquid. So when you heat it up (on a hot summer's day), it becomes less viscous. When you put a heavy weight on it (like an airliner), it will tend to flow away from and surround that airliner. Planes pull up to a gate, sit for an hour or so, and suddenly their wheels have sank into the ramp six inches and they can't move. Same with runways, the constant shock of landing aircraft cause the asphalt to buckle and warp eventually.

Concrete has issues in the cold, however, especially if it is not laid well. It can buckle and crumble when it expands and contracts. However, it only gets stronger as it ages and it can easily be made to withstand the hardest of landing impacts.

The type of material does not make any noticeable difference to takeoff/landing performance.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ interesting to see it from a engineering standpoint as well as the flying one. was included my original question but that was too broad so i removed it... would probably deserve it's own Q&A :) $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 22:26
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    $\begingroup$ I seem to recall hearing about an airliner that got stuck in softened asphalt (taxiway?) last summer during some extreme temperatures. $\endgroup$
    – Phil Perry
    Commented Mar 25, 2014 at 22:30
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    $\begingroup$ Not sure if this is the one you are referring to. $\endgroup$
    – fooot
    Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 19:06

Both are paved surfaces, so it doesn't make any difference when calculating takeoff and landing distances (ASDR, TORR, TODR, LDR). If your aircrafts performance computer offers the possibility to calculate the takeoff and landing performance, speeds and distances it won't make any difference between concrete and asphalt runways.

Also from the pilots perspective, not thinking about the calculations, it is not a real difference. Maybe asphalt runways are a little more prone to have standing water on it if they are not groved then concrete runways and also tend more to get cracks.

Airports will have their reasons why they decide for one of these types of runway. The condition of the surface the runway is build on (slopes, strength, water) as well as the costs will obviously be factors which needs to be considered.


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