Airport operators want super-smooth, durable runways that can be constructed and rehabilitated quickly, to minimize runway downtime. The strengths of asphalt pavement construction coincide exactly with what the aviation industry demands from its pavements:
- Speed of construction;
- Low maintenance;
- Less complexity than concrete; and
- Low initial and life-cycle costs
Between 85 and 90 percent of all runways at the nation's 3364 commercial airports are surfaced with asphalt pavement. More advantages of asphalt pavement construction:
- The maintenance process permits a runway to be shut down during off-peak hours for rehabilitation.
- Building super-smooth pavements of asphalt is much easier and more cost-effective than any other pavement type.
- The surface can be customized to increase skid resistance, lower the risk of hydroplaning, decrease splash and spray, or absorb noise.
Perpetual Asphalt Pavements serve many well. In a Perpetual Pavement, the pavement structure remains intact for many years. The only maintenance required is to mill off the surface (usually about 2 inches) at infrequent intervals, recycle the material that has been removed, and resurface the pavement.
In fact, Baltimore-Washington International Airport in Maryland and Eareckson Air Force Base in Alaska were recognized with Perpetual Pavement Awards in 2002 for their long-lasting pavements.
Asphalt pavement runways support the high volumes of heavy planes landing at some of the nation's busiest airports, including Baltimore-Washington International, Lindbergh Field in San Diego, McCarren International (Las Vegas), Memphis International, Newark International, Oakland International, O'Hare International, Pearson International (Toronto), and San Francisco International.
Asphalt pavement is also used extensively on runways at many general aviation airports.