Billed as “West Virginia’s largest airport and gateway to the world,” Yeager was built in 1947, covers 767 acres, has a single asphalt runway, and hosts McLaughlin Air National Guard Base. An engineered materials arresting system (EMAS) built in 2007 proved its value in 2010 when it stopped a US Airways jet. But the 240-foot-high reinforced fill emergency overrun structure upon which it sat collapsed in 2015.

The catastrophic failure swallowed buildings and caused major flood damage to upstream structures by blocking a portion of Elk Two Mile Creek. The collapse also destabilized the surrounding area and left a 140-foot-high vertical face of partially reinforced fill looming over a massive debris field that obliterated Keystone Drive.

The Airport Authority enlisted Schnabel to develop a mitigation plan to stabilize the vertical face and debris field. Interim stabilization consisted of establishing a displaced threshold on the runway, temporary surface drainage, erosion protection, staging and access requirements, design of waste fill disposal areas, emergency contingencies, and development of an instrumentation, monitoring, and testing program. The mitigation project dictated tight deadlines and risk-based decision making while focusing on safety and efficiency.

We are now on a team led by Landrum and Brown to design a retaining wall and fill for Runway 5 to restore the EMAS and runway safety zone. As an integral part of the design process, we facilitated a formal risk workshop that used input from the Airport Authority and the design team to develop a project risk register. Documenting the risks identified, their qualitative ratings and associated mitigation strategies help support client cost and schedule goals and present the project in a positive light to the flying public.