As you may recall, a six-year-old boy was killed in Chicago when a runaway plane at Midway Airport crashed through a fence and collided with his family’s car. That tragedy underscores what the government says is an urgent safety problem. Many airports have a real problem with adequate space at the end of runways. It was reported by Associated Press that eleven major airports are currently struggling to meet federal requirements that runways be surrounded by safety areas designed to give runaway planes extra room to stop.
A report recently released by the Transportation Department’s inspector general confirms the problem. The airports named account for nearly one quarter of the nation’s air passenger travel. The airports are located in Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Francisco and Washington. It’s said that all of the airports have been working for years to come up with solutions, but often there’s no place to send runaway planes because the airports are hemmed in by highways, water, buildings or other obstructions. It should be noted, however, that Midway Chicago made safety improvements two years after the child’s death. According to the report, between 1997 and 2007, 75 aircraft overran or veered off runways, resulting in nearly 200 injuries and 12 deaths. According to the report, in just three of the accidents cited, 80 injuries and the Chicago death referred to above could have been prevented if safety improvements to runways made after the accidents had been in place beforehand.
Safety areas typically are 1,000 feet long and 500 feet wide at each end of a runway, plus 250 feet along both sides of the runway. The Federal Aviation Administration has allowed some airports that don’t have enough room for full-size safety areas to install crunchable concrete beds called “engineered material arresting systems” at the ends of runways. The beds are designed to stop or slow planes, not unlike the way gravel-covered ramps on highways stop runaway trucks. The beds are typically about 600 feet long instead of 1,000 feet, saving space. It was reported that the beds at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport have already halted three runaway planes.
The report said some of the 11 airports may not be able to meet a Congressional deadline of 2015 to put runway safety areas in place. Putting safety areas in place can require filling in wetlands, requiring environmental reviews that can take as long as 12 years to complete. Community opposition to airport expansion because of noise concerns has also been a factor. Concerning the risks, the report said:
Until these challenges and problems are addressed, aircraft will remain vulnerable to damage and, what is more important, their passengers remain at risk of potential injury from flights that undershoot, overrun or veer off a runway lacking a standard (runway safety area). Improvements need to be made at the 11 large airports sooner rather than later.
A spokesperson for the FAA says the agency has already spent $2 billion helping hundreds of airports put runway safety areas in place. In addition to the roughly $300 million budgeted annually for the program, the economic stimulus plan pushed by President Obama contains millions of extra dollars. It’s been said that runway safety areas are one of the most difficult problems facing urban airports. It’s a problem, however, that clearly must be resolved.
Source: Associated Press
Contact us today for a free legal consultation with an experienced attorney.
Fields marked *may be required for submission.
If you would like to subscribe to the Jere Beasley Report digital edition, simply visit our Subscriptions page and provide the necessary information or call us at 800-898-2034.
Attorney Advertising - Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.