Runway length – or the lack of same

Runways has been mentioned previously in this blog, for good reason. Runway excursions ranks number two of the mishaps you might experience as a passenger, (smoke in cabin being number one, see separate article). Aircraft are unable to stop on available runway length on a regular basis. This year alone 16 airliner have departed the end with various results, raging from total hull losses (the offroad capabilities of modern jetliners are, as previously mentioned, utterly disappointing) to minor or no damages. For passengers and crew, hazards are normally limited to minor injuries, incurred in cases of evacuation.

The reasons runways are not long enough are as hard to grasp. At some places extensions of 1500 feet are not possible due to limitations in the surrounding terrain, thus being exempted from this debate. At some places the realization that something has to be done has brought about an invention called EMAS (Engineered Materials Arrestor System). In short, aircraft are brought to a standstill, depending on speed when leaving to allotted thousands of feet of runway, in a couple of hundred feet, by having their landing gears getting stuck in cleverly manufactured ”mud”. See last picture below.

Sufficient (?) amount of EMAS cost approx. 10 MUSD. So does 1500 feet of extra runway. The EMAS has to be repaired after each mishap to the extent of 2,5 to 4 hundred thousand dollars. 1500 extra feet if used, does not. The airport has to be closed if stuck in EMAS, if the runway in question is the only runway. Passengers has to be evacuated by means of stairs, or escape chutes in severe cases. None of this applies to an airport with adequate runway lengths.

Newly built airports often have adequate runway lengths, but some don’t.  Airports with marginal runways causes (sometimes huge) take-off- and landing weight penalties, and the length of pilot training is inversely proportional to the length of the runway.                The results are obvious. Pick a favorite among the few samples below;



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