What is a RSA?

What is a Runway Safety Area (RSA)?


Runway safety area criteria were established by the FAA to provide adequate areas for emergency operations, including landing short or aborted take-offs. As defined in FAA Advisory Circular 150/5300-13, Change 5, Airport Design, the RSA is “a defined surface surrounding the runway prepared or suitable for reducing the risk of damage to airplanes in the event of an undershoot, overshoot, or excursion from the runway.”

Based on the types of aircraft utilizing Runway 10R-28L, in order to meet FAA design standards, the cleared and graded RSA would need to be 500 feet wide (centered on the runway) and extend 600 feet prior to the landing threshold and 1,000 feet beyond each runway end. Analysis undertaken by Kimley-Horn found that a maximum of 200 feet of RSA is present beyond each runway end, which does not satisfy the FAA’s 1,000-feet design standard.

Appendix 2 of FAA Order 5200.8, Runway Safety Area (RSA) Program, describes the alternatives that are to be evaluated in instances where RSA requirements are not met. Whenever possible, the construction of the traditional graded RSA is the preferred alternative. However, when it is not practicable to obtain the entire safety area in this manner, as much traditional graded RSA as possible should be obtained and the following alternatives should be evaluated:

  • Relocation, shifting, or realignment of the runway;
  • Reduction in runway length where the existing runway length exceeds that which is required for the existing or projected design aircraft;
  • A combination of runway relocation, shifting, grading realignment, or reduction;
  • Declared distances; and
  • Engineered Materials Arresting Systems (EMAS).

In lieu of a traditional, graded RSA surface, EMAS has been used at numerous airports across the U.S. that are constrained by development, terrain, rivers, or other environmental features. The resistance provided by the EMAS system slows aircraft and allows them to come to a stop in a shorter distance. The EMAS bed is located 35 feet from the Runway 28L departure point to protect the EMAS bed from jet blast.