Uphill Runways

Q: It seems to me that some runways go a little bit uphill. Is this true or are my eyes failing me?

Stop blinking. Runways often slope slightly. Some even dip toward the center and rise on both ends. However, the steepness of the grade often appears much greater than it is — a trick of perspective. A typical grade is maybe one percent overall. And this is simply to accommodate the existing ground condition; runways are not intentionally sloped to making takeoff or landing easier. Occasionally slight performance penalties apply when using a particular strip.


This Q&A is part of a collection that originally appeared on Salon.com. Patrick Smith, 38, is an erstwhile airline pilot, retired punk rocker and air travel columnist. His book, Ask the Pilot (Riverhead) was voted “Best Travel Book of 2004” by Amazon.com. Patrick has traveled to more than 55 countries and always asks for a window seat. He lives near Boston.