The Port Authority has been granted a patent for development of a cutting-edge system of protective beds located at the end of airport runways that add an important layer of safety to air travel, helping to decelerate aircraft and safely stop airplanes from overshooting runways.
The patent, issued recently by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, was granted for updates made to the Port Authority’s Engineered Material Arrestor System (EMAS), which is composed of aerated blocks of crushable cellular cement that enables aircraft tires to sink into the lightweight material before it overshoots a runway.
The Port Authority’s Engineering and Aviation departments partnered to design and develop the new EMAS system, beginning in September of 2006. The team – comprising current and from Port Authority employees Daniel Webber, Jami Bjornstad, Casimir Bognacki, Joseph Marsano, Patel Nisraiyya and Kevin Bleach – began identifying potential materials, targeting test protocols, and engaging the University of Dayton to develop a mathematical modeling program to proof the system during development. Through the next 10 years, the team proceeded with various testing in both the Port Authority MEU Laboratory and at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) field testing sites.
The original EMAS system gained international publicity in October 2016 when a plane carrying then-Vice-Presidential candidate Mike Pence veered off a LaGuardia Airport runway during extreme weather conditions and was stopped by the arrestor beds. The newly designed EMAS is a state-of-the-art safety system whose improvements make it less expensive to install, easier to maintain, and more durable while meeting Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirements.
“This is another major milestone not just for the Port Authority but for the aviation industry,” said Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton. “With the patent now approved, we will work towards obtaining FAA certification and creating and implementing superior safety products.”
The Need for Runway Extension to Allow for Placement of Barriers
To provide a margin of error for pilots, the FAA’s standard Runway Safety Area (RSA) guidelines require safety zones at each end of the runway, or an area that is 1,000 feet long and 500 feet wide. Many airports were built before the RSA standard and, since these airports are surrounded by residential and business districts, bodies of water, highways, railroads or located in densely populated communities, there is no space to extend the runways.
The original EMAS, launched in 1996, was a joint project of the Port Authority, the FAA, the University of Dayton and the Engineered Arresting Systems Corp. (ESCO), now Runway Safe Inc., a New Jersey-based company.
To properly test in the field, a mock airplane was built out of a truck which involved cantilevering a weighted airplane wheel off the side. This wheel would then be run into test beds to measure the level of resistance. The data was collected through sensors in the wheel, and then analyzed through the modeling program to determine the best system to be used and to confirm the selected system met all the desired properties.