Airport runways are usually between 8,000 to 13,000 feet long (2,438 to 3,962 meters or between 2.4 to 3.9 km).

The world’s longest airway is the Shigatse Peace Airport in China, which is 5,000m or 16,404 feet long.

Generally, the larger a plane is, the more runway it needs.

Airplanes can also technically land without runways but doing so is dangerous because planes can be damaged by uneven terrain.

Airport runways are complex in construction and expensive to build, costing anywhere from $15 million to multiple billions of dollars

10 Longest Runways in the World

  1. Shigatse Peace Airport (China): 5,000m or 16,404 feet. 
  2. Ulyanovsk Vostochny Airport (Russia): 5,000m or 16,404 feet. 
  3. Embraer Unidade Gavião Peixoto Airport (Brazil): 4,967m or 16,396 feet. 
  4. Upington Airport (South Africa): 4,900m or 16,076 feet
  5. Denver International Airport (United States): 4,877m or 16,001 feet. 
  6. Hamad International Airport (Qatar): 4,850m or 15,912 feet. 
  7. Madrid-Torrejón Airport (Spain): 4,818m or 15,807 feet.
  8. Erbil International Airport (Iraq): 4,800m or 15,748 feet.
  9. Harare International Airport(Zimbabwe): 4,725m or 15,502 feet.
  10. N’djili Airport(the Democratic Republic of the Congo): 4,700m or 15,420 feet.

10 Shortest Runways in the World

  1. Simko Field Airport (Idaho, United States): 122m or 400 feet. 
  2. Ted Luark Airstrip (Montana, United States): 152m or 500 feet. 
  3. Mile Hi Airstrip (Idaho, United States): 171m or 560 feet.
  4. Dewey Moore Airstrip (Idaho, United States): 213m or 700 feet. 
  5. James Ranch Airstrip (Idaho, United States): 244m or 800 feet. 
  6. Ousel Falls Airport (Montana, United States): 274m or 900 feet. 
  7. Simonds Airstrip (Idaho, United States): 274m or 900 feet. 
  8. Westray Airport (Scotland, United Kingdom): 291m or 955 feet. 
  9. Back Acres Airport (Maine, United Kingdom): 305m or 1,000 feet. 
  10. Rahn Airport (Montana, United States): 305m or 1,000 feet. 

Longest Runway in the USA

Denver International Airport in Denver, Colorado, United States, has America’s longest runway, the 16R/34L, which is 16,000 feet or 4,876 meters long.

Shortest Runway in the USA

Simko Field Airport in Inkom, Idaho, United States, has America’s shortest runway at 400 feet or 122 meters.

Planes Require Different Length Runways

Small Planes

The FAA states that smaller airplanes with approach speeds of between 30 and 50 knots should use 800 feet (244m) of runway at mean sea level.

The Cessna 150, for example, only needs approximately 1,385 ft (422 m) for take-off, 1,075 ft (328 m) for landing.

Private Jets

Private jets need a runway length of 5,000 feet or 1,524 meters at mean sea level.

For example, the Citation V Ultra/Encore and Falcon can take off at a runway of 5,000 feet or 1,524 meters. 

Commercial Airliners

A commercial airliner needs at least 6,000 feet or 1,829m of runway if its weight is below 200,000 lbs or 90,718 kg.

An aircraft with a greater weight needs at least an 8,000 feet or 2,438m long runway at mean sea level. 

Military Planes

Most fighter jets can take off on a runway of 600 meters and land on a 700-900 meter long runway, but the exact requirement differs for each plane.

The longest landing distance is 656 feet or 200 meters for the F-22 Raptor.

Runways Can Be Narrow or Wide

Runways can be as little as 8 m (26 ft) wide in smaller general aviation airports, to 80 m (262 ft) wide at large international airports built to accommodate the largest jets

Planes Shouldn’t Land Without a Runway

Planes can technically land without a runway, but it damages the aircraft.

The uneven terrain of normal ground could damage the aircraft’s landing gears, tail, or other parts of the aircraft.

Airplanes only land without runways during emergencies when no usable runways are available. 

You Won’t See a Flat Runway

Runways aren’t completely flat to let rainwater run off to the sides and keep the surface free from standing water.

Instead, runways are built with a crown down the centerline to remove rainwater. 

Planes Take off and Land on Runways At Different Speeds

On average, a commercial airliner accelerates from 120 to 140 knots for 30 to 35 seconds before climbing.

But, the exact acceleration speed an airplane needs to take off depends on its model and the take-off conditions. 

Related: How Fast Does a Plane Go to Take Off?

Airplanes land at speeds between 240 and 265 km/h, or 150 to 165 mph.

A plane’s landing speed depends on the plane’s weight, plane, and plane’s flap settings

Building a Runway Costs Millions

It’s estimated that a 20-30m concrete runway costs between $4,400 to $7,200 per linear meter, while an asphalt runway would cost $3,900 per linear meter.

So, a commercial runway’s cost ranges between $15 million to several billion dollars. 

In conclusion:

  • Airport runways are 8,000 to 13,000 feet or 2,438 to 3,962 meters, or between 2.4 to 3.9 km.
  • The world’s longest runways are 5,000m or 16,404 feet in length.
  • Commercial airlines generally need the longest runways, while small planes use shorter runways.
  • Airplanes can technically land without a runway, but a plane would be damaged from landing on uneven terrain.
  • Airplane runways also aren’t fully flat to prevent standing water during rainfall.
  • Runways are also expensive and cost anywhere between $15 million to multiple billions of dollars, depending on the construction material and length.

Helen Krasner holds a PPL(A), with 15 years experience flying fixed-wing aircraft; a PPL(H), with 13 years experience flying helicopters; and a CPL(H), Helicopter Instructor Rating, with 12 years working as a helicopter instructor.

Helen is an accomplished aviation writer with 12 years of experience, having authored several books and published numerous articles while also serving as the Editor of the BWPA (British Women Pilots Association) newsletter, with her excellent work having been recognized with her nomination of the “Aviation Journalist of the Year” award.

Helen has won the “Dawn to Dusk” International Flying Competition, along with the best all-female competitors, three times with her copilot.