The runway-excursion safety system installed following a 2000 overrun by a Southwest Airlines 737-300 at Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR) is being credited for helping to keep another 737 from leaving airport property after the aircraft landed and went past the same runway end Dec. 6.

“Shortly after 9:05 a.m. PT today, Southwest Airlines flight 278 rolled off the end of Runway 8 while landing at [BUR] and came to rest in the engineered material arresting system (EMAS),” FAA said via Twitter shortly after the incident.

Southwest said the flight from Oakland, California, “landed safely and rolled to a stop at the end of a runway.” Images shared on social media show the 737-700, N752SW, firmly embedded in the EMAS’ crushed cement debris.

All 112 passengers and five crewmembers departed via “air stairs,” Southwest said. No injuries were reported.

Weather at BUR at the time of the incident included heavy rain. FAA issued a ground-stop for certain flights headed for BUR for about 2 hr. after the incident.

EMAS installations, used to provide supplemental safety at the ends of runways that do not have enough room for standard 1,000-ft. long by 500-ft. wide runway safety areas, have been credited for 14 saves since 1999, FAA data show. Flight 278 is the third involving a scheduled commercial passenger flight. In 2016, then US vice presidential candidate Mike Pence’s chartered 737 rolled into an EMAS at New York’s LaGuardia Airport.

Burbank’s single EMAS bed, which now measures 170 ft. long and 350 ft. wide, according to an FAA chart of the airport, was installed in January 2002 with the help of a $1.9 million FAA grant. The original bed was 170 ft. wide and was enlarged in 2008. The entire bed was replaced in 2017.

The bed’s installation came less than two years after another excursion involving the same airline and runway. On March 5, 2000, Southwest flight 1455 overran BUR’s Runway 8 departure end, ran through a blast fence and perimeter wall, and came to rest on Hollywood Way, a four-lane city street that runs perpendicular to Runway 8/26, east of the airport. Two passengers suffered serious injuries. 

The US National Transportation Safety Board cited the crew’s decision to continue an unstable approach with excessive speed and flight-path angle as the accident’s primary cause. The board also cited air traffic control’s handling of flight 1455’s approach, which “positioned the airplane too fast, too high, and too close to the runway threshold to leave any safe options other than a go-around maneuver.”

The report did not cite the airport’s configuration as a factor, but BUR opted to install the EMAS. The bed sits between the Runway 8 departure end and Hollywood Way.

EMAS systems have been installed or planned for 113 runway ends at 69 US airports. Most of the installations were done by Zodiac Aerospace, now part of Safran. In 2014, a competitor, Runway Safe, introduced a system that uses aggregate foam made from recycled glass, touting it as cheaper and more durable than Zodiac’s cellular cement product. Chicago Midway Airport has installed four of the Runway Safe systems.

Sean Broderick, sean.broderick@aviationweek.com