Pavement classification number

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The pavement classification number (PCN) is an International Civil Aviation Organization standard used in combination with the aircraft classification number (ACN) to indicate the strength of a runway, taxiway or airport apron (or ramp). This helps to ensure that the runways etc. are not subjected to excessive wear and tear, thus prolonging their usable life and promoting safe aircraft operations.

How it worksEdit

The PCN is expressed as a five-part code, separated by forward slashes, describing the piece of pavement concerned.

The first part is the PCN numerical value, indicating the load-carrying capacity of the pavement. This is always reported as a whole number, rounded from the determined capacity. The value is calculated based on a number of factors, such as aircraft geometry and a pavement's traffic patterns, and is not necessarily the direct bearing strength of the pavement.

The second part is a letter: either an R or an F, depending on whether the pavement itself is of a rigid (most typically concrete) or a flexible (most typically asphalt) design.

The third part is another letter from A to D expressing the strength of what is underneath the pavement section, known as the subgrade. So a subgrade of A would be very strong, like concrete-stabilised clay. A subgrade of D would be very weak, like uncompacted soil.

Flexible pavementsEdit

The flexible pavements have four subgrade categories:

Category Strength Value Range of California bearing ratio (CBR) Values
High A CBR 15 Above 13%
Medium B CBR 10 Between 8% and 13%
Low Strength C CBR 6 Between 4% and 8%
Ultra Low D CBR 3 Below 4%

Rigid pavementsEdit

The rigid pavements have four subgrade categories:

Category Strength Value (k) Range of k values
High A 150 MN/m² (550 lb/in²) Above 120 MN/m²
Medium B 80 MN/m² (300 lb/in²) Between 60 and 120 MN/m²
Low Strength C 40 MN/m² (150 lb/in²) Between 25 and 60 MN/m²
Ultra Low D 20 MN/m² (75 lb/in²) Below 25 MN/m²

Tire pressureEdit

The fourth part is either a letter, or a number with units expressing the maximum tire pressure that the pavement can support. In terms of letters, W is the highest, indicating that the pavement can support tires of any pressure. Concrete surfaces can support tire pressures greater than those of existing commercial aircraft and are therefore nearly always rated W. Other letter classifications are as follows:

Category Pavement class Maximum tire pressure
Unlimited W No Pressure Limit
High X 1.75 MPa (254 psi)
Medium Y 1.25 MPa (181 psi)
Low Z 0.5 MPa (72 psi)

The fifth and final part describes how the first value was worked out, a T indicating a technical evaluation, and a U indicating usage – a physical testing regime.


A PCN of 80/R/B/W/T would mean that the underlying pavement's value indicating load-carrying capacity is 80 (unitless), is rigid (and thus is likely concrete), is on a medium-strength subgrade, has no limit on tire pressure, and has been calculated through technical evaluation.

See alsoEdit


  • "Advisory Circular 150/5335-5B - Standardized Method of Reporting Airport Pavement Strength - PCN". Federal Aviation Administration. August 26, 2011.

External linksEdit