As the Massachusetts Port Authority announced the completion of safety projects on the longest runway at Logan International Airport on Thursday morning, the sky was gray and thick with fog, which offered the perfect backdrop for unveiling the improved runway, said Thomas P. Glynn, Massport’s chief executive, noting the near-zero visibility.
“These are exactly the conditions our new procedures are designed to accommodate and to buffer,” he said at a news conference by the runway.
The $63 million project, funded by the Federal Aviation Administration and Massport, extended the safety area at the end of the 10,083-foot runway another 470 feet into Boston Harbor via a pier. The airport also installed a bed of crushable concrete, which stops aircraft that veer off the runway and minimizes damage.
The FAA usually requires that runways have a safety area that extends 1,000 feet on each end. But when this isn’t possible — when runways are immediately surrounded by water, highways, railroads, or drop-off terrain — airports typically install the crushable concrete, which stops planes in less space.
Concrete beds are currently installed on 69 runways at 45 airports in the United States. (Logan now has two.) They can stop a plane as large as a Boeing 747 going 80 miles per hour.
Michael G. Whitaker, deputy administrator for the FAA, said the crushable concrete and expanded runway would prevent planes that overshoot landings from ending up in the harbor.
On Jan. 23, 1982, a World Airways passenger flight into Boston did just that, swerving off the runway and sliding into the water. Two passengers were missing and presumed dead. But in the past 14 years, Whitaker said, crushable concrete has stopped eight planes across the country from overshooting runways, protecting some 235 passengers and crew.
The Massachusetts Port Authority is looking into adding a concrete bed to another runway at Logan, said Edward C. Freni, director of aviation. He said he was honored the FAA had partnered with Logan Airport. “It’s a tribute to us,” he said. “We have a reputation for being at the forefront of making travel safer, and we’ll continue to move forward with new technology here.”
In addition to adding the crushable concrete, Massport upgraded the runway’s navigation system, adding an array of lights and a system of radio signals that help planes land in fog, crosswinds, and heavy snow.
Whitaker said this means Logan will now have two runways that are usable in zero- visibility conditions, which should reduce flight delays and airport closings.
The runway safety project was announced in 2011 and completed two years ahead of a federal mandate to bring airport safety areas up to standard. The runway was closed for work in the summer and fall of 2011 and 2012, and the project created approximately 70 construction jobs.