EMAS: modern flight safety

by | 2018-12-22

An update ( * * *)


Safety: the word on every professional lips of the industry. With reason, we pilots have known better than anyone else: we are the last line of defence when all this system around us flies right through the James Reason cheese model. It must be recognized that we have been working to improve with great diligence and concrete efficiency flight safety since 1903.

Our passengers expect nothing less than the very best effort being expanded to sustain safety. It is very much required.

As a matter of fact, what about « this system around us » ? Aside from the pilot profession, modern SMS techniques require participation of all associated organisations within the industry: the carriers, the maintenance organisations, manufacturers and even regulators such as Transport Canada or the FAA.

On the subject of SMS and organizations, recently, Transport Canada published with remarkable fanfare a long awaited update to the CAR’s (Canadian Air Regulations) pertaining to pilot fatigue. Details of this amendments were demonstrated as insufficient and only used parts of science based reality.

As this was not sufficiently necessary, when browsing on the TSB Web sight, we can note two elements that made the TSB 2018 watchlist: Runway collision risk and runway end overruns.

Affordable modern solution

The former is disconcerting to observe, especially following the 2005 (yes 13 years ago) AF358 accident at CYYZ. It is worth remembering that an A-340 exited the end of a runway causing injuries and destruction of the aircraft. A well deserved appreciation was extended to the cabin crew the successful evacuation and the CFR (Crash Fire Rescue) team.

The TSB report was exhaustive and quite complete as usual. One of the recommandations was to bring up to international standards (ICAO) runway end surface area (RESA). At the time CYYZ 24R was merely meeting Transport Canada standard, far less than any surface worthy of the name. ICAO at the time and still to this day, recommended 300 meters of RESA or the installation of modern arresting system. Following the accident, Transport increased Canadian RESA requirement to 150 meters.

Why not conforme to international safety standards?

It could be that that CYYZ cruelly lacks sufficient real estate like so many world airports to establish this 300 meters requirement or it could the just subjective vision of safety for passengers and crew. Engineered Material Arresting System (EMAS) has been in existence for a long time and is installed in over a hundred runways and 63 airports in the USA. Just think of New-York, La Guardia with it’s wharf based runways!

New-York LaGuadia (KLGA) has EMAS installed and they are not bankrupted!
KLGA and it’s EMAS

The recent incident (December 6, 2018) of a B-737 at Burbank (KBUR) is plain to see. It is the proof once again that the installed EMAS was indispensable to stop the aircraft without injury and with minimal damage.

The offered protection by such systems also demonstrates how certain airport authorities take seriously to hearth flight safety. Funds are easily allocated with no corporate existential questions, this not the case in Canada. In fairness to airport authorities they do excellent work on promoting « passenger experience » by embellishing the transit with agreeable luminous art work, spray paint frescos and posh boutiques.

Expensive landing fees airport

It is worth observing that CYYZ according to the Globe and Mail, was ranked again in 2018 as the most expensive airport on which to land an aircraft worldwide, well ahead of the LAX, JFK, CDG and FRA fame.

How is it that after the Toronto accident, 13 years after the fact, the TSB is still at the administrative barricades recommending gross common sense in matters of runway end safety? And one up for ICAO scheduling a runway safety conference in Montreal in March 2019? Transport Canada and airport authorities should diligently work to eliminate this gaping hole in the Reason cheese rather than pay optimistic lip service in favour of flight safety.  

* * *

November 7th 2018, an empty B-747 overran the end of runway 14 in CYHZ. 4 crew members were injured, the aircraft was a total loss. The overrun accident is being investigated and will no doubt produce a very detailed and revealing report. There are numerous issues involved. But you can be assured that lack of EMAS installation will be mentioned somewhere in there.

November 7th 2018, an empty B-747 overran the end of runway 14 in CYHZ.

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