Promising safety upgrades for LAX
A more practical idea – and one that would not lead to more flight delays – is the effort by the airport and the FAA to put in place runway-status lights designed to quickly alert pilots when it’s safe to cross a runway on LAX’s north airfield. Such a system could be in place by January 2009 Although certainly not foolproof, warning lights could help prevent miscommunications between pilots and air-traffic controllers. The Airport Commission’s decision to fund a another safety study of the north airfield should also shed light on whether the distance between the two northern runways should be increased. Although that would mean relocating a runway closer to airport neighbors in Westchester, such a project may be needed to accommodate larger, quieter aircraft like the Airbus A380. Larger aircraft capable of carrying more than 500 people should make the airport more efficient. Indeed, one flight by such a mega-aircraft could do the job that two conventional airliners now perform. We’re also encouraged by experimental satellite-based navigation systems that have been demonstrated by the FAA. These new systems would allow pilots to keep better track of nearby aircraft when skies are more crowded – and thus avoid potential flight hazards around busy airports. All these future technical upgrades should boost public confidence in LAX’s ability to keep safety risks to a minimum. And we’re hopeful such advancements will occur in a way that doesn’t exacerbate fears of airport expansion.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! For those who live near Los Angeles International Airport, the line between airport modernization and airport expansion is a fine one. But while LAX must not deviate from a legal agreement capping annual passenger volume to 78.9 million, modernizing the airport to improve safety should move forward as quickly as possible. Eight so-called runway incursions, or near-collisions, have occurred at the airport since Oct. 1, prompting a re-evaluation of safety concerns. We’re hopeful that discussions about solutions will result in fewer such close calls in the future. There is no shortage of ideas. Assemblyman Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, has called on the Federal Aviation Administration to restrict the number of aircraft landing and taking off – while at the same time spreading out the number of flights to other airports in the region. Although we welcome regional solutions to take some of the pressure off LAX, it doesn’t seem likely that fewer flights would reduce the chances of collisions. The recent close calls at LAX were linked more to pilot error and airport configuration issues rather than the volume of flights at any one time.