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Runway Rockbed Stops Runaway Planes

Thursday, June 19, 2014

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A massive bed of new-technology concrete blocks will be installed at the end of a new Florida runway to slow stray airplanes to a safe stop.

The lightweight concrete system, called an Engineered Materials Arresting System (EMAS), is being installed as part of current construction on a new, 8,000-foot-long runway at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

EMAS is crushable concrete beds that are layered so that the aircraft tires sink into the material and the plane decelerates as it rolls through.

'100% Success'

According to the Sun Sentinel, 6,115 blocks will be used at the end of the runway to form an area 563 feet long by 178 feet wide that could stop a 400-ton Boeing 747 moving at 80 mph.

Zodiac Arresting Systems

EMAS has safely stopped nine overrunning planes, according to the FAA.

"The key thing is that it has worked every single time," Kevin Quan, spokesman for manufacturer Zodiac Arresting Systems, told the Sun Sentinel.

"We have a 100 percent success record—with little or no damage to the aircraft," Quan said.

The system will cost $17 million, which is included in the overall $791 million cost of the runway project, according to the Sun Sentinel.

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport became the first Florida airport to use EMAS when it installed the system on its north runway in 2004, according to the Florida Department of Transportation.

9 Stopped Planes

FDOT said the idea of crushable concrete beds was first created and developed by the Federal Highway Administration after a DC-10 jetliner overran a runway at New York's JFK Airport. The plane ended up in frigid waters; luckily, none of its 177 passengers were seriously injured.

crushable concrete runway
Florida Department of Transportation

"The key thing is that it has worked every single time," Kevin Quan, spokesman for manufacturer Zodiac Arresting Systems, told the Sun Sentinel.

Since then, the FAA has required airports to have a 1,000-foot-long overrun area at the ends of runways.

However, many airports were built before the standard was adopted, and, in some cases, the full safety area is impeded by lack of available land, the FAA noted.

The FAA allows airports to use EMAS when land isn't available for the 1,000-foot overrun; a standard EMAS extends 600 feet from the end of a runway.

According to the FAA, many of the EMAS beds installed before 2006 have needed periodic re-painting to maintain the system's functionality and integrity. A new plastic seal coating has since been developed, which should eliminate the need for periodic re-painting.

To date, EMAS has safely stopped nine overrunning aircrafts, the FAA said.

There are 74 EMAS runway ends at 47 airports throughout the U.S., and plans are underway to install 15 more systems at nine additional airports.


Tagged categories: Airports; Concrete; Health and safety

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