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System that saved runaway airliner in Cali. also installed in DC area

WUSA-TV Washington, D.C. logo WUSA-TV Washington, D.C. 4 days ago Pete Muntean

WASHINGTON -- The system that saved 117 people on board a Southwest Airlines flight that ran off the runway in Burbank, California is also installed in our area.

Engineered Material Arresting System—better known as EMAS—is a foamy bed of plastic and recycled glass installed at airports with runways that end near hazards like rivers, highways and railroads.

Airplane tires sink into the sand-like material, slowing it to a stop. The system in place at 63 U.S. airports including our Reagan National Airport, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

RELATED: Southwest plane skids off the runway in rainy weather in California

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Southwest Airlines flight 278 landed on Burbank’s runway 8 in rain on Thursday morning. Passengers told CBS News they felt the pilot brake heavily before the airplane came to a sudden stop instead of plowing through a fence and into a highway.

A similar incident occurred on March 5, 2000 when a Southwest jet landing slid into the road at the end of the very same runway, injuring 44 passengers. That was before EMAS was installed.

“The EMAS technology improves safety benefits in cases where land is not available, or not possible to have the standard 1,000-foot overrun,” said a FAA news release. “A standard EMAS installation can stop an aircraft from overrunning the runway at approximately 80 miles per hour.”

The EMAS technology improves safety benefits in cases where land is not available, or not possible to have the standard 1,000-foot overrun. EMAS is installed at three runway ends at Reagan National Airport in order to stop a screeching airplane from running into George Washington Parkway or the Potomac River. The system was installed between 2014 and 2015, said the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.

“That’s what this particular device is designed to do,” former NTSB Chairman Mark Rosenker told CBS News. “Stopping it from going into the highway, stopping it from going into water, stopping it from leaving the airport.”

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