When a high-speed aircraft overshoots the runway, airports, pilots and, of course, passengers rely on infrastructure that will keep them safe. Zodiac Arresting Systems’ EMASMAX has a proven record since its first use in the mid-1990s for ensuring passengers are unharmed and aircraft is minimally damaged. Kevin Quan, vice-president of sales and marketing, discusses the capability of this product and how it has recently arrested the plane of a VIP.

In October, the EMASMAX arrested US vice-president-elect Mike Pence’s Boeing 737 at New York’s LaGuardia Airport. How does it feel to see your product keeping people safe?

Kevin Quan: We are all thankful for the good outcome, and that vice-president-elect Pence and the passengers were unhurt. It is gratifying to know that our product can be relied upon to stop aircraft safely, saving lives and protecting valuable assets. Our patented EMASMAX has a perfect record: 11 saves in 11 attempts, including LaGuardia. This is a source of pride for Zodiac Arresting Systems. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and LaGuardia Airport are to be commended for their foresight in partnering with FAA and our company as early adopters of our EMAS technology in the 1990s.

The EMASMAX has a perfect record since it was first used in 1996 at JFK Airport. To what do you attribute its reliable performance?

It starts with our commitment to product quality, exemplified by testing every block in each EMASMAX arresting system, and managed through our ISO-9001-approved quality system. Behind the finished product is extensive testing, including live aircraft testing, which validated the product and the FAA-approved computer simulation used to tailor the configuration for each airport. Each system is optimised for the space available and the fleet mix of aircraft using the runway, ranging from jumbo jets and mid-size single-aisle planes to regional jets, business jets and turboprop commuters.

What do you consider the major advantages of an EMASMAX system compared with other methods employed in runway safety areas?

There are many advantages. Reliability and performance are important factors to our customers and us. There is little to no margin for error when an aircraft is speeding down a runway at high speed and a safe stop is required. EMASMAX provides a controlled safety envelope that a conventional 1,000ft runway safety area does not. Our perfect safety record speaks for itself. EMASMAX has arrested small business jets, commuters and jumbo jets. This has inspired our customers to install over 110 systems worldwide at 68 airports. Refinements and upgrades to materials and installation have resulted in lower maintenance requirements and reduced life-cycle costs.

How easy is it to repair the EMASMAX after it has been used to arrest an aircraft?

EMASMAX beds are composed of modular blocks so they can be easily removed when compromised by an arrestment. Replacement blocks, seam-seal and other components that arrive on site can also be installed. Zodiac personnel are in contact with an airport immediately after an arrestment. After removal of the aircraft, the airport performs a damage assessment, which is verified by Zodiac. This begins the process of delivering materials to the site for repair work.

In the recent incident at LaGuardia, materials and personnel were in place one and a half days after the overrun occurred. The repairs were performed in two five-and-a-half hour shifts (during runway closures), including mobilisation and clean up.

Zodiac Arresting Systems developed EMASMAX in partnership with academics and FAA. What benefits did this collaboration bring?

The scope and breadth of knowledge, along with each entity’s strengths, contributed to the development of EMAS. As a regulatory agency, the FAA drove the process, providing test support and a solid target for US airports to comply with their regulations. The academic community provided knowledge of aircraft performance and test support. Our company provided over 50 years (at that time) of energy-control expertise in safely stopping military and commercial aircraft, including the space shuttle. The coordinated team laid the groundwork for the success of EMAS.

What can we expect to see in the development of EMAS systems in the future?

EMASMAX has evolved over the years, yielding the fourth-generation product with extreme jet-blast resistance, environmental durability and low maintenance. We are developing the next generation of EMASMAX with advanced materials and installation components to further reduce life-cycle costs and maintenance while ensuring the optimal performance and reliability that our customers count on.