EMAS Delivers Concrete Safety Results

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ARTICLE: Key West Runway Overruns Prove Value of EMAS


Airplanes and runways are designed to permit accelerating and decelerating vehicles to stop before the end of the concrete. The engineering parameters are based on statistical analyses of a range of expected operations. Those criteria do not always account for multiple points outside of expectations.
For example,

  • if the runway’s friction has deteriorated due to snow, ice or rain and/or
  • if the wind conditions abnormally contribute to the aircraft’s momentum and/or
  • if the airplane itself encounters mechanical failures such as malfunctioning brakes or blown tires and/or
  • If the aircraft simply lands too long or too fast for whatever reason

then the forecast values of arresting the aircraft may exceed any reasonable design limits. An airplane that cannot stop by the end of the runway creates significant safety risk to the passengers, the people and property adjacent to the airport and anyone/anything proximate to this site.

To mitigate this risk, airport management at Key West added Engineered Material Arresting Systems to both ends of Runway 9/27. Mr. Epstein relates recent experiences of landing aircraft which were able to benefit from this system at this airport.

It is important to note that EMAS is eligible for funding under the FAA’s AIP program. In fact, 63 US airports (big facilities like LGA, JFK, MDW and ORD as well as many smaller ones) and 5 foreign airports have had EMAS installed to add to their safety margin. The FAA’s tally indicates that at least 8 airplanes have benefitted from this installation and each involved passengers who were spared serious injury or death.

Spending capital funds, augmented by an AIP grant, is a smart investment to increase an airport’s safety margin!

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