T.F. Green installs runway safety system

An EMAS system is installed on Runway 16 at T.F. Green Airport in Warwick, Wednesday, July 9, 2014.

At airports across the country, by federal mandate, runways that cannot be practically extended to make them longer and therefore safer when planes are in trouble, are installing EMAS -- Engineered Materials Arrestor Systems.

Designed for planes as big as 737s and up to speeds of 80 mph, the structure absorbs a runaway plane on contact.

"Minimal damage to the aircraft. You'll have some potential damage to the gear of the aircraft, but the fuselage itself will remain intact and it amazingly works well," EMAS project manager Brian Bennett said.

Runway 16 at T.F. Green is the shortest of them all, at about 5,000 feet. Both ends will be getting EMAS. They're made up of Lego-like breakaway, lighter-than-average, specially formulated stacked concrete blocks.

With Airport Road just on the other side of a fence, it protects nearby traffic and businesses.

"We don't have room for a standardized runway safety area, which is typically 1,000 feet long. So, we've reduced that length significantly by putting this EMAS bed in," Bennett said.

The project is about half-finished.

"It slows the aircraft down and it comes in and it starts, you see the aircraft starting to sink into the EMAS bed, into the concrete, and that resistance that it feels with the concrete takes the energy out of the aircraft rolling and stops it," Bennett said.

The $8.5 million partially federally funded project is part of the larger expansion project at T.F. Green Airport.

The Airport Road end of the runway will be finished this week. Construction of the other side will start this fall and be finished next year.