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SFO To Install System To Stop Runaway Planes On Its Short Runways

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A mock-up of the EMAS system being installed at San Francisco International Airport. (Margie Shafer/CBS)

A mock-up of the EMAS system being installed at San Francisco International Airport. (Margie Shafer/CBS)

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SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (KCBS) — Two runways at San Francisco International Airport will be closed in the coming months to improve runway safety zones by adding collapsible concrete to prevent plane overruns.

The $214 million-project will shut down the runways for the installation of Engineered Material Arresting System (EMAS) technology starting May 17 and will continue through mid-September.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) this is part of a federally-mandated project to improve runway safety areas by the end of 2015. While most runway safety areas are typically 500 feet wide and extend 1,000 feet beyond each end of the runway, according to the FAA, several airports were built before the current 1,000 foot-runway safety zone standards that were adopted about 20 years ago.

Since these two SFO runways can’t be extended the EMAS is being installed, which will act as a runaway truck ramp for an aircraft.

TJ Chan, regional director for Zodiac Aerospace, which manufactures the brick-like blocks that will be erected said it’s like “crushable concrete”

According to SFO spokesman Doug Yakel, this technology has worked nine out of nine times to stop planes— the largest being a 747 at JFK Airport in New York.

Even though two of the four runways at SFO will be closed, Yakel said the improvements will only affect 15 percent of the airport’s capacity.

“In good weather we expect that we’re not going to have any arrival delays. We may see some departure and taxi times,” he said.

Any delays of up to 15 minutes should be expected during peak hours from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Air traffic on certain routes will be changed so Peninsula communities will notice more Southern California bound day-time air traffic during construction.

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