How to Stop a Runaway Plane: FAA Looks at EMAS Technology

By Juliet Van Wagenen | August 22, 2014
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An Engineered Material Arresting System (EMAS) in use
An Engineered Material Arresting System (EMAS) in use. Photo: Engineered Arresting Systems Corporation

[Avionics Today 08-22-2014] As part of an initiative to improve Runway Safety Areas (RSAs) at commercial service airports by 2015, the FAA is working to adopt the Engineered Material Arresting System (EMAS) across the country. Working in conjunction with the Engineered Arresting Systems Corporation (ESCO), located in New Jersey, EMAS technology emerged to safely arrest overrunning aircraft on runways that don’t meet the 1,000-foot RSA standard due to lack of available land or other obstructions (bodies of water, highways and railroads, among others).

EMAS uses crushable concrete placed at the end of the runway to decelerate the aircraft as the tires sink in to the lightweight material, should the plane overrun the runway. A standard EMAS installation extends 600 feet from the end of the runway and an EMAS arrestor bed can be installed to help slow or stop an aircraft, even if less than a standard RSA length is available.

In 2005, the Office of Airports prepared an RSA improvement plan for the runways at approximately 575 commercial airports. According to a report put out by the FAA, of the approximately 1,000 RSAs at these airports, an estimated 65 percent have been improved to full standards, and an estimated 94 percent have been improved to the extent practicable.

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