December 6, 2018 a Southwest Airlines flight from Oakland to Burbank overran the runway during a heavy downpour of rain. The 737 was stopped safely though by the Engineered Material Arresting System (EMAS) and no passengers or crew were hurt during the incident.
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FAANews released the following statement less than an hour after the event: “Shortly after 9:05 a.m PT today, @SouthwestAir Flight 278 rolled off the end of Runway 8 while landing at @fly_BUR Airport in #Burbank, CA, and came to rest in the Engineered Material Arresting System (EMAS). This information is preliminary and may change.”
Burbank Airport had an earlier incident in the year 2000, that prompted the installation of the EMAS. A Southwest Airlines 737-300 approached Burbank too fast, landed long and exited the field, stopping just feet before a gas station.
More recently, in 2017, a Citation 750 also overran the runway at Burbank airport and was successfully stopped by the EMAS.
So what exactly is an Engineered Material Arresting System?
Generally speaking it is a lightweight concrete that collapses under the weight of an aircraft and decelerates roll. The Engineered Arresting System Corporation (ESCO) is one of two manufacturers of the system. According to ESCO the EMAS “is consisted of a bed of cellular cement material manufactured in the form of engineered block components that are strategically placed at the overrun end of a runway.” They are typically the full width of the runway. The length is determined from the airport’s layout and the aircraft that use the runway. ESCO has been manufacturing these systems for military applications for a long time. However starting in the early 1990s they began assisting the FAA in creating EMAS for runways that could not meet the 1,000 foot minimum standard for runway safety areas (RSA).
The FAA reports that to date there have been a total of 13 incidents of overrunning aircraft that were safely stopped by the EMAS.