Eli5 why runways don’t seem to suffer from potholes like highways do?


How are runways different form highways that they never seem to have potholes? Is it how they’re constructed? Or how they’re maintained?

In: 1

Simple math. Planes have 3 wheels, cars have 4.

(Or each airport only has a handful of runways that they meticulously maintain so planes don’t crash and burn).

I they are better maintained. They no doubt inspect the runways at regular intervals and when one forms the immediately fix it.

Also maybe they’re made stronger?

Runways subsurface preparations are much deeper and stronger than even the interstate. There are millions of miles of roadways in the US, and maybe a few thousand miles of runways.

Even Germany’s vaunted Autobahn has an average subsurface preparation of about 28 inches (sand, pebbles, rocks, cement). The US interstate has an average of only 14 inches. Again, it comes down to cost savings.


Potholes form and grow when water seeps into small cracks in pavement, and the momentary spikes in water pressure from tires rolling over the crack force it to expand. On a busy highway, a crack can be driven over once every few seconds, whereas planes only roll down a runway once every few minutes, so the wear-and-tear on a runway is much less than on a road.

Runways are also inspected on a daily basis and repaired promptly, since even a small piece of debris flung up against a jet aircraft can lead to catastrophic failure in the right conditions.

It’s salt!
They are not going to use salt on a runway because it is too corrosive to vital electronics, and the aluminum shell of the planes.
It’s no standing water!
Most potholes are created when freezing water expands while freezing.
It’s TLC!
If you only need to take care of a small amount of road It’s easy to keep it clean, sturdy, and clear of debris