FAA's Attempts To Stop Overruns

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Brought into the headlines by overruns at acreage-challenged airports like Chicago and Teterboro, the FAA-approved engineered materials arresting system (EMAS) now crowns 21 runways at 16 airports, with four more airports and five runways due for the upgrade in the next year. Teterboro recently had one of the systems installed at the end of 6,015 foot Runway 6 to the tune of $8.5 million (all but $1 million covered by the FAA). That system was unwittingly put to use October 25, when a Challenger made a $15,000 wrong turn (estimated EMAS repair costs) on the way to the terminal. Teterboro Airport's second system will reside at the south end of Runway 18 following the relocation of Redneck Avenue.

EMAS spreads panels of crushable concrete 600 feet (or less) from the end of a runway to provide an overrun that slows aircraft progressively, sparing both the airplane and passengers from damage or injury. The wrong turn during taxi at Teterboro damaged about 15 of the panels and was soon followed by an Advisory Circular requiring that EMAS systems be repaired within 45 days of an overrun. The FAA has for about 20 years required that airports regulated under Part 139 safety rules maintain a standard runway safety area of 500 feet by 1000 feet beyond each runway. Airports built before enactment of that rule are among those that may suffer from close quarters with roads or similarly immobile obstacles, hence the need for EMAS.