by Waseem Khatri

Using Nonmetallic Materials to Land Airplanes on ‘Udhailiyah’s Short Runway
Crews work to construct an Engineering Material Arrest System, which allows aircraft to land where there isn’t a sufficient length of runway due to obstacles such as insufficient land availability, bodies of water, and other impediments.

‘Udhailiyah — Saudi Aramco has deployed for the first time an important technology at airports where there isn’t a sufficient length of runway, due to obstacles, such as insufficient land availability, bodies of water, and other impediments as detailed in the Federal Aviation Administration Technical Standards.

The Engineering Material Arrest System (EMAS), which was technically evaluated by the Consulting Services Department’s (CSD) Civil Engineering Group, was constructed at the ‘Udhailiyah Airport because nearby highway construction activities had resulted in a shortened length of runway.

EMAS can stop the aircraft safely without damaging it in the event of overrun or coming off the runway. The system has been proven successful and applied to numerous airfield runways around the world.

How it Works

EMAS is built using high-energy absorbing blocks of selected strength. The blocks are made from recycled glass and a plastic mesh system that gets crushed under the weight of an aircraft. Meanwhile, the arrestor bed is composed of blocks of lightweight, crushable cellular cement material that are readymade with protective coatings.

The blocks are installed on a leveled asphalt base and then glued using liquid bitumen. Once the blocks are installed, the gap between them is sealed with specially manufactured plastic strips.

These blocks are project specific and are available in variable sizes to meet the aircraft type, loading, and aircraft travel speed. Minimum maintenance is required for the system, and once the aircraft breaches EMAS, the damaged blocks can be easily removed and replaced.

CSD is also exploring the possibility of using locally sourced materials to produce EMAS within the Kingdom in the future.

A Collaborative Success

The technology evaluation and implementation could not have been accomplished without the support and partnership of the Aviation Department and the Community and Public Projects Department.

After the completion of the EMAS, Riyadh Shiban, CSD coordinator in the Civil Structural Engineering Division, said the collaboration between these three organizations resulted in a success story that should continue for future projects.