JAMAICA, Queens (WABC) --A field of aerated cement blocks that crumble under the weight of an aircraft helped prevent Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence's campaign plane from barreling off a runway and onto New York City's busy Grand Central Parkway.
Arrestor beds have been installed at dozens of airports across the country in recent years, including in Chicago, Boston, Washington, D.C., and at the New York-area's three major airports.
The first arrestor system in the world was first installed at JFK back in the mid-90s, and it almost immediately saved lives by stopping planes from running off the end of runways. It took a while for the Port Authority to put the systems in place at its other airports, but they stepped up the installation after several close calls.
On Thursday night, that runway over-run protection averted serious injury and perhaps death. The crumbled concrete shows how the wheels of Governor Pence's plane sunk into the specially designed arrestor bed:
"It was relatively close to the Grand Central, hundreds of feet away if I had to guess," Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye said. "The arrestor beds served their purpose."
More than a decade ago, an Eyewitness News investigation showed how many of the Port Authority airport runways lacked these arrestor beds to prevent airplanes from over-shooting runways. But in the years that followed, the agency stepped up installation and put them at the end of all LaGuardia runways and where needed at JFK, Newark, and Teterboro.
The special aerated foamed cement blocks are made by a New Jersey company called ESCO.
"When an aircraft goes off the runway, the wheels crush the material," ESCO's Kent Thompson said in our original report. "And as they do, the aircraft sinks in."
In 2005, a business jet overshot the runway at Teterboro. Because there was no arrestor system, the plane skidded across a busy road and slammed into an office building, injuring 20 people. A safety bed was later installed, and when a jet again overshot the runway, it was stopped after its wheels sunk into the crush-able concrete.
"To date, EMASS has stopped nine over-running aircraft," FAA Runway Safety Manager Michael Myers said. "Saving a total of 243 crew passengers aboard these flights."
The LaGuardia runway excursion made it the 10th time nationwide the New Jersey-made arrestors have prevented possible disaster.
"EMASS is a remarkable technology that has saved a number of planes from ending up in even more catastrophic situations," NTSB board member Robert Sumwalt. "So we want to see if EMASS held up, did it perform as intended."
Learn more about arrestor beds from the manufacturer:
Of the 10 close calls, half of them occurred at our area airports.