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Engineered Material Arresting System (EMAS)

An Engineered Materials Arresting System (EMAS) uses materials of closely controlled strength and density placed at the end of a runway to stop or greatly slow an aircraft that overruns the runway. The best material found to date is a lightweight, crushable concrete. When an aircraft rolls into an EMAS arrestor bed, the tires of the aircraft sink into the lightweight concrete and the aircraft is decelerated by having to roll through the material. The FAA requires that commercial airports, regulated under Part 139 safety rules, have a standard Runway Safety Area (RSA) where possible.

At most commercial airports the RSA is 500 feet wide and extends 1000 feet beyond each end of the runway. The FAA has this requirement in the event that an aircraft overruns, undershoots, or veers off the side of the runway. The most dangerous of these incidents are overruns, but since many airports were built before the 1000-foot RSA length was adopted some 20 years ago, the area beyond the end of the runway is where many airports cannot achieve the full standard RSA. This is due to obstacles such as bodies of water, highways, railroads and populated areas or severe drop-off of terrain.

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The FAA has a high-priority program to enhance safety by upgrading the RSAs at commercial airports and provide federal funding to support those upgrades. However, it still may not be practical for some airports to achieve the standard RSA. The FAA, knowing that it would be difficult to achieve a standard RSA at every airport, began conducting research in the 1990s to determine how to ensure maximum safety at airports where the full RSA cannot be obtained. Working in concert with the University of Dayton, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and the Engineered Arresting Systems Corporation (ESCO) of Logan Township, NJ, a new technology emerged to provide an added measure of safety.

Benefits of the EMAS Technology

The EMAS technology provides safety benefits in cases where land is not available, where it would be very expensive for the airport sponsor to buy the land off the end of the runway, or where it is otherwise not possible to have the standard 1,000-foot overrun. A standard EMAS installation extends 600 feet from the end of the runway. An EMAS arrestor bed can still be installed to help slow or stop an aircraft that overruns the runway, even if less than 600 feet of land is available.

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