Flight Redemptions

What is EMAS in Aviation? (Engineered Materials Arresting System)

Updated: February 23, 2024

The Engineering Marvel of EMAS: Engineered Materials Arresting System

Aviation is a constantly evolving field, with innovative technologies being developed to enhance safety and protect passengers and crew. One such advancement is the Engineered Materials Arresting System (EMAS), a groundbreaking solution that provides a reliable means of stopping aircraft in the event of an overrun. Designed to mitigate the consequences of runway excursions, EMAS has revolutionized aviation safety by reducing the risk of catastrophic accidents. In this article, we will delve into the world of EMAS, exploring its engineering principles, benefits, and real-world applications.

The Science Behind EMAS

EMAS is a carefully engineered system that consists of lightweight, crushable materials designed to safely decelerate an aircraft in the event of an overrun. The system is installed at the end of a runway, acting as a buffer zone that gradually brings the aircraft to a controlled stop. It works on the principle of energy absorption, converting the kinetic energy of a moving aircraft into thermal energy through the deformation and compression of the materials.

The materials used in EMAS are typically made of lightweight, crushable concrete blocks or cellular cement blocks. These blocks are strategically arranged in a pattern that maximizes their energy-absorbing capabilities. The engineering behind EMAS involves extensive testing and analysis to ensure the system can effectively stop different types of aircraft, taking into account factors such as weight, speed, and landing angle.

One of the key advantages of EMAS is its ability to provide a predictable and reliable stopping distance for aircraft. By carefully designing the system to absorb and dissipate energy, EMAS minimizes the risk of aircraft overshooting the runway and encountering hazardous obstacles or terrain. This predictable stopping distance is crucial in preventing accidents and protecting the lives of those on board.

Applications of EMAS

EMAS has gained widespread recognition and adoption in the aviation industry, with installations at airports around the world. Its primary application is at the end of runways, particularly in cases where the available runway length is limited or there are potential obstructions beyond the runway area. EMAS provides an additional layer of safety, acting as a runway overrun protection system.

Furthermore, EMAS can be customized and tailored to suit different airport configurations and aircraft types. The system can be designed to accommodate various factors, including runway slope, aircraft approach speeds, and maximum landing weights. This versatility ensures that EMAS can be effectively implemented in a wide range of airport environments, making it a valuable tool for enhancing safety in aviation.

It is worth noting that EMAS is not intended to replace traditional runway safety measures, such as the use of arresting cables or the extension of runway overrun areas. Instead, it serves as an additional safeguard, providing an extra layer of protection in the event of an emergency. EMAS installations are typically located at the end of runways, working in conjunction with other safety measures to minimize the risk of accidents.

Real-World Success Stories

EMAS has proven its effectiveness in preventing catastrophic accidents and saving lives. Numerous real-world incidents have demonstrated the value of this innovative technology. One notable example is the case of Chicago Midway International Airport, where an EMAS installation successfully stopped a Boeing 737 aircraft that had overrun the runway during a landing in 2005.

In this incident, the aircraft overshot the runway, barreling through a perimeter fence and onto a busy road. However, thanks to the presence of the EMAS system, the aircraft was safely brought to a stop, preventing any loss of life or significant damage. This incident highlighted the crucial role of EMAS in mitigating the consequences of runway excursions and showcased its potential to a global audience.

Another notable example of EMAS in action occurred at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport in 2016. An Airbus A380, the world's largest passenger aircraft, experienced a runway excursion during landing. Once again, the EMAS system proved its worth by safely stopping the aircraft, preventing a potentially disastrous outcome.

These real-world success stories serve as a testament to the effectiveness of EMAS in enhancing aviation safety. By providing a reliable means of stopping aircraft in the event of an overrun, EMAS has become a vital tool in reducing the risk of accidents and protecting the lives of passengers and crew.


The Engineered Materials Arresting System (EMAS) is a remarkable innovation that has revolutionized aviation safety. Through careful engineering and the use of lightweight, crushable materials, EMAS provides a reliable means of stopping aircraft in the event of an overrun. Its ability to absorb and dissipate energy effectively minimizes the risk of accidents and reduces the severity of runway excursions.

EMAS installations have become a common sight at airports around the world, offering an additional layer of protection and enhancing aviation safety. By providing a predictable stopping distance and accommodating various airport configurations and aircraft types, EMAS has proven its worth in real-world incidents, saving lives and preventing catastrophic accidents.

As the aviation industry continues to prioritize safety, the importance of technologies like EMAS cannot be overstated. By investing in innovative solutions that mitigate the consequences of runway excursions, we can ensure safer skies for all. EMAS stands as a testament to human ingenuity and engineering prowess, a true marvel in the world of aviation.

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