UPDATE | Report finds emergency landing area likely saved life in Yeager Airport crash

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – UPDATE 9/13/19 @4:45 p.m.
A new safety feature at Charleston's Yeager Airport has saved its first life, according to a new report. The emergency landing area, known as an EMAS, stopped a small plane last week during a crash landing.

Damage to the EMAS section at the end of Yeager Airport's runway caused by a Cessna crash landing last Wednesday.

"We had an impact at the end of the EMAS near the field slope," airport director Terry Sayre said. "If the plane was about two feet lower than where he hit, he would've hit the dirt or the side of the mountain. Which would've been a lot worse for him."

The report said that 57 tiles of the EMAS were damaged when the Cessna crashed and slid about 100 feet before coming to a stop.

Tire marks are visible on the crushed foam, and slits are cut along the skid area where the propeller continued to spin.

The EMAS was opened less than two months ago after four years of construction at a cost of $25 million. Yeager's old EMAS system was destroyed in a 2015 hill slide.

"I think it gives everyone an extra peace of mind," Sayre said. "Especially people who are first-time flyers or don't fly on a regular basis."

The EMAS is particularly useful at Yeager where there is not enough space for the FAA standard 1,000 feet of runway safety area because of its location on the top of the mountain, Sayre said.

"It's good for landings in inclement weather when you have rain and snow you have a contaminated surface," Sayre said, noting most planes only need about half the runway to takeoff or land. "It gives you that extra sense of stopping power if you need it."

Yeager is currently in the process of receiving bids to repair and replace damaged tiles, Sayre said.

ORIGINAL STORY 9/5/19 @ 12:02 a.m.
Crews are on the scene early Thursday morning of an emergency at Yeager Airport in Charleston.

According to county officials, a single-engine plane went off the runway and into the EMAS, which is an emergency stopping area meant for planes when they overshoot the runway.

Crews at the scene say they pilot is up and walking around.

The incident, which was reported just before 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, is under investigation. Keep checking the WSAZ app for the latest information.