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San Francisco International Airport readies for runway construction: Runway safety improvements should wrap up in September
March 21, 2014, 05:00 AM By Angela Swartz Daily Journal

Nick Rose/Daily Journal
The San Francisco International Airport is closing runways 1L and 1R so it can construct Runway Safety Areas.

One of the improvements will be the installation of Engineered Material Arresting System " a honeycombed energy absorbing material that safely captures aircraft landing gear in case a plane overruns the runway after landing.

To comply with federally-mandated changes to improve runway safety at San Francisco International Airport, two runways will close for $214 million worth of construction this summer.

The work, which will begin May 17 and run for about three or four months, is to construct Runway Safety Areas, or RSA, rectangular spaces at each end of a runway. They’re designed to allow an aircraft to safely come to a stop in case a plane overruns, overshoots or veers off a runway. These RSAs are equipped with Engineered Material Arresting Systems made of honeycombed energy-absorbing material. Congressional mandates require RSA improvements are made by 2015.

“This was really well coordinated to make sure we came up with the best standards with the restrictions of this airport,” said Robin Hunt, Federal Aviation Administration manager at the San Francisco Airport District Office.

After assessing several options for construction, SFO, the airlines and the FAA agreed closing runways 1L and 1R at the same time would allow the improvement work to be accomplished in the safest and quickest way, according to SFO. The airport will operate exclusively on runways 28L and 28R during the summer months. The work is being done 24 hours a day during the summer to take advantage of better weather conditions.

The project needed to stay within the airport’s current footprint since the airport is next to Highway 101 and the San Francisco Bay. Making the runways bigger was not up for consideration.

“Expanding the runways is not an option,” said SFO spokesman Doug Yakel. “SFO, the FAA and the airlines chose closing both the runways as the most efficient way to complete the final phase.”

During good weather, minor delays may occur during peak periods of traffic demand from 9 a.m. to noon. During bad weather, delays may be similar to those experienced during winter months. Delays could range from five to 15 minutes for departures, but shouldn’t affect arrivals as much since arrivals will get priority.

“The top criteria was safety first, second and third,” said Andy Richards, airport traffic control tower manager with SFO and the FAA.

The airport has been working on the project since 2008 and has already completed work on its two major runways. Financing for the project comes from both federal funding and airport general revenue bonds.

For more information visit

(650) 344-5200 ext. 105



Tags: runways, airport, during, runway, months, project,

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