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TRENTON -- A federally mandated safety project scheduled at Trenton-Mercer Airport (TTN) in Ewing will require a temporary two-month suspension of commercial air service at the airport in fall 2013, according to the project engineers.

The installation of Engineered Material Arresting System (EMAS) beds at the ends of 6,006-foot Runway 6-24 is the final segment of the federally supported project required by the FAA to bring the airport into full compliance with current FAA regulations on Runway Safety Areas. Due to the nature of the construction, the airport’s only commercial carrier, Frontier Airlines, would need to suspend service from Trenton-Mercer Airport until the runway is reopened.

EMAS is a recently FAA approved, state-of-the-art, life-saving technology. The beds are made of lightweight, crushable concrete blocks constructed at the ends of the runways, which are designed to entrap an aircraft that has overrun the runway, with little or no damage to the aircraft, and most importantly, no major injuries to passengers, crew or bystanders. There are currently 55 such systems installed at 37 airports worldwide. To date, there have been eight engagements of aircraft by EMAS in the United States, with no injuries and little to no damage in each case.

“We apologize to our customers that our convenient, low-fare service will be unavailable for a two-month period,” said Daniel Shurz, Frontier’s senior vice president, commercial. “We are pleased we have been able to work with Mercer County to get this work achieved during a lower-demand season and look forward to welcoming customers back on board Frontier flights from Trenton-Mercer Airport in November.”

The total cost of the last leg of the Trenton-Mercer EMAS project is $15.8 million, with $14.2 million of that coming from the FAA. The project had been planned for several years and is required to be completed by 2013. The County had expected to move forward with construction in summer 2013, but in collaboration with Frontier Airlines, the county has moved construction to fall 2013 in order to support Frontier’s busy summer travel season. Frontier plans to temporarily suspend service from TTN beginning Sept. 9; service will resume Nov. 8.

“These are necessary safety upgrades as required by the FAA, and our partners at Frontier were aware of those requirements when they began service to our region,” said Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes. “While suspending service is our least favored option, this short-term disruption will produce long-term gains. We are pleased that our partners at Frontier are able and willing to work with us as we meet our federal obligation.”

Added Hughes, “Frontier Airlines’ commitment to our premier aviation facility is assured, and this close coordination will allow us to get our patrons back traveling to their favorite destinations as quickly as possible.” 

In concert with the runway safety improvements, Mercer County will utilize the construction period to make further improvements to the parking areas and terminal facilities, including easier access to vehicle parking, enhanced concession options, larger hold rooms with better amenities, and restroom upgrades.

“These are things that airline customers have been asking for,” Hughes said. “We’re confident that we’ll be able to offer the public an even better facility and more enjoyable traveling experience when Frontier resumes its service.”

The EMAS blocks are designed and fabricated by Zodiac-ESCO at a plant in Logan Township, N.J. Work will be performed by CJ Hesse Inc.; the engineers are C&S Engineers Inc.