Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Engineered materials arrestor system: San Francisco International Airport runway project is rolling along

The FAA is requiring the installation of spongy material meant to stop runaway planes on runways at SFO.

The planned installation of spongy material at the ends of San Francisco International Airport’s runways — to protect passengers if aircraft overrun the landing strip — is about to enter the design phase.

The airport must install these so-called runway safety areas within three years to comply with Federal Aviation Administration requirements. While the agency requires a 1,000-foot safety area, it has provided an exemption for two of SFO’s four runways, which have no room for them since they are constrained by the Bay and Highway 101.

On Wednesday, the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee approved the airport’s request not to put the design project out to bid since there is only one company, New Jersey-based Engineer Arresting Systems, authorized by the FAA to do the work. The installation must be completed by December 2015. The design contract is $420,000.

The federal government will pay for 75 percent of the expected total $200 million project, according to a financial plan adopted in May 2010.

The so-called engineered-material arresting system is described as “crushable concrete placed in beds at the end of runways to stop aircraft overruns. The beds cause the tires of an aircraft to sink into the lightweight concrete and the aircraft decelerates as it rolls through the material.”

The technology has been installed on 58 runway ends in 40 airports in the U.S., with the first system of its kind installed at John F. Kennedy International Airport in 1996. As of October 2011, there were seven incidents where the system stopped overrunning aircraft, according to the FAA.

The full Board of Supervisors will vote Tuesday on the bid requirement waiver.

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