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Chicago Executive Airport cleared for new runway safety systems

As you may know, the south end of the main runway at the Chicago Executive Airport ends very near to Palatine Road. The owners of the airport, Prospect Heights and Wheeling, have now approved the installation of a runway safety system to be installed at both ends of the runways to help stop airplanes that overshoot the runways.

The safety system is known as an Engineered Material Arresting Systems or EMAS and are often used in places where the runway ends very near the boundary of the airport, creating a situation where a runaway airplane could cause serious, injuries, damage or death if the aircraft was not able to stop. The EMAS system consists of a bed of crushable concrete blocks that are designed to slow and safely stop an airplane that goes off the end of a runway. It is similar in design to the runaway truck ramps you sometimes see along the highways.

The system is expected to cost about $12 Million, according to the Chicago Tribune, but up to 95% of the funding may come from a grant from the Federal Aviation Administration, the rest of the cost would be split equally between the Illinois Department of Transportation and proceeds from airport revenues. Airport officials are confident that project has a good chance of receiving the necessary funding.

The system is in place at both O'Hare and Midway airports. At Midway airport, the system was installed in 2006 following a fatal 2005 crash. A Southwest Airlines jet overran a runway and collided with a car on Central Avenue. A young passenger in the car was killed. At O'Hare the EMAS system was effective in 2008 when it safely stopped a Mexican Airlines Airbus that overran the runway.

Source: Chicago Tribune "Airport looks at plane stoppers for runway" Megan Graydon, March 1, 2011

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