Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airport design standards require runway safety areas (RSAs) beyond the runway end to minimize the hazards of overruns. However, many runways were built before the adoption of this standard, and construction of a standard RSA may be impracticable. In 1986, the FAA launched a research program to develop an engineered solution for airports with inadequate real estate for standard RSAs. By 1993, the FAA established the feasibility of using a soft-ground arresting system to address this shortcoming. Soft ground is any material that will crush under the wheels of an aircraft and safely and predictably bring an aircraft to a stop.
Between 1994 and 2003, the collaborative research efforts of the FAA, Engineered Systems Company, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, included laboratory testing, mathematical model validation, full-scale aircraft testing, and prototype arrestor system installations at two major airports. The end result enabled the FAA to publish Advisory Circular (AC) 150/5220‑22 “Engineered Materials Arresting Systems (EMAS) for Aircraft Overruns.” This AC contains standards for planning, design, installation, and maintenance of EMAS in RSAs. The outcome of this research enabled EMAS installations at nine United States airports by 2003.
This report summarizes EMAS research activities between 1994 and 2003.
Authors: James White and Nicholas Subbotin