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Thu, Apr 21, 2005

Juneau, Feds Can't Agree On Runway Plan

Alaskan City's Airport Funding Could Be At Stake

The engineered-material arresting system has so far been a success, saving five aircraft from expensive and perhaps even deadly mishaps. The crushed material at the end of runways is designed to slow a speeding aircraft to a stop without causing severe damage, when they might otherwise run off the end of a runway and into whatever lies beyond.

So why don't airport officials in Juneau, AK, want to install it?

So far, 15 airports nationwide have installed the collapsible cement blocks in runway safety areas that are 1,000 feet long and 500 feet wide. As Juneau International Airport officials contemplate how to comply with the requirement for a safety area, they're studying five options -- two of which include an engineered materials system.

But even though the FAA says it's a proven system, Juneau International Airport Board Chairman Ron Swanson isn't sure about EMAS. He's specifically worried about the weather.

"This is untried in Alaska," Swanson told the Juneau Empire. "There are two major reasons to cause accidents: wind shear and pilot misjudgment. A standard runway safety area is longer and can protect the airplanes and its occupants."

Swanson said he's specifically worried about Alaska's bitter cold in trying to maintain an engineered material safety area. "You cannot plow snow with a truck on it. This thing would cave in," Swanson said. "You have to have special equipment to remove snow."

The five options are part of the FAA's Environmental Impact Study, set for release on Monday. While two of the options involve the new arresting system, two are designed in the traditional sense and one is a combination of both.

The EIS will be the subject of community hearings in Juneau on June 1st and 2nd. If airport officials refuse to comply with the FAA's directives on the subject, they stand to lose their federal airport grants -- although there's no clear indication that's even being contemplated at this point.

FMI: www.juneau.lib.ak.us/airport/index.php

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