"Los Angeles Needs To Get Going. Fix The North Airfield
Drastic changes need to
be made to the northern runways at Los Angeles International
Airport -- and they need to be made now. So said Federal Aviation
Administration head Marion Blakey to LA city leaders this week.
Blakey said she couldn't tell them specifically what to do, but
encouraged immediate action.
"I'll put it plainly. However you decide to fix the airfield,
get it done," Blakey said. "The problem here is that the parallel
runways on the north side are too close together. A landing
aircraft that leaves the outward runway on a high-speed taxiway
literally has only a few feet to stop before crossing the inner
runway hold line."
The changes need to be made not only to improve LAX's overall
safety, but for efficiency and it's very economic existence. "Los
Angeles needs to get going. Fix the north airfield now," she
Blakey's call-to-arms happened during a luncheon by the Los
Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. Her comments echoed Southland
politicians' call to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa the same day to use
his "considerable political and personal skills" to "lead
modernization efforts at the airport."
LAX has had more than it's fair share of runway mishaps. As ANN has reported, a lot of
the fault lies with the runway configuration, primarily on the
north side of the airfield, where one in four incursions occurs.
Jets come as close 50 feet or less sometimes, like the most recent
one that occurred August 16.
To show how the runway configuration affects safety, Blakey
pointed to Dallas/Fort Worth airport... which she says also has
runways too close together. Between DFW and LAX, there were a dozen
near-collisions in fiscal year 2006. Denver International Airport
and Dulles International Airport, in comparison, have greater
distances between their parallel runways and had no
near-collisions, she said.
There was a study released a few months ago that suggested
moving one runway 340 feet to the north, a plan that was promptly
criticized by politicians like Rep. Jane Harman, D-Venice, Los
Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe and City Councilman Bill
Rosendahl because it would be too close to residential areas and
there was, in their opinion, no conclusive evidence such a move
would improve safety.
There are also economic issues to consider, Blakey said. The
city could miss out on some serious business opportunities if it
fails to effectively compete with San Francisco, Las Vegas and
Phoenix, according to KABC-7 Los Angeles.
"If the airport is going to be slowed down and it's not up to
snuff, carriers will pack up and go elsewhere," Blakey said.
"There's always going to be another airport waiting with open
The city of Los Angeles has begun a $333 million improvement
project on the southern runways which has also been a problem in
Earlier this week, the Los Angeles Airport Commission said it
would spend in the neighborhood of $2 million for not only a safety
study of the north side, but also a determination if they can
handle the new, larger jets and thus, more passengers.
Two years ago, the FAA
approved a plan that moved one of the northern runways 340 feet
south and totally getting rid of Terminals 1, 2 and 3.
"We signed off on that master plan and the airport agency has
not formally presented us with any other plan," said FAA spokesman
Critics Harman, Knabe and Rosendahl sent a letter to
Villaraigosa Thursday, asking the commission's study stay focused
on safety issues only.
"If there is a legitimate safety concern on the north side, then
let's deal with it. We, too, are committed to LAX's modernization,
and we agree that a safe airfield is critical," the letter
"While the FAA believes the construction of a taxiway on the
north airfield will improve safety, there is no definitive study on
which approach makes the most sense, or whether solutions that
protect Westchester and Playa del Rey could accomplish the same
goals," the letter continues.