The Los Angeles International Airport North Airfield Safety Study Final Report (“Final Report”), published on May 11, 2010, looks very much like the draft. The Final Report, like the draft, concluded that no safety problem exists on the two runways of the North Airfield. It further concludes that an additional separation of the runways by 340 feet is unnecessary for safety purposes, although useful for increasing capacity. Finally, the study concludes that an additional separation of 100 feet, originally proposed by the Cities of Inglewood and El Segundo, which would allow the addition of a center taxiway, would be sufficient to accommodate any remaining safety concerns. The study, however, reaches the correct conclusions for the wrong reasons.
The Final Report, like the draft, ignores the study’s original directive from the Board of Airport Commissioners, to determine the impact of the various runway configurations on the incidence of runway “incursions,” or the conflict of two or more aircraft or vehicles on a runway. Instead, it concentrates on runway collisions and fatalities, an infinitesimally small subset of incursions in general. Moreover, also like the draft, the Final Report declines to cite the sources of the data used in reaching its conclusions.
Finally, and perhaps most crucially, Los Angeles World Airports didn’t have to spend almost half a million dollars on six eminent professors (none of whom have any hands on expertise in air traffic control) to determine that the North Runway Complex is safe. In 2006, the City of Inglewood submitted an analysis which conclusively demonstrated, using Federal Aviation Administration data: (1) the relative absence of incursions on the North Airfield between the years 2000 and 2006; and (2) the minor nature of the incursions that did occur. The Cities of Inglewood and Culver City’s comments on the Draft North Airfield Safety Report updated that analysis, but lead to the same conclusion.
In summary, the Board of Airport Commissioners spent valuable dollars to reconfirm a view long held by the pilot and controller community, and reflected in their comments on the draft report and surveys taken as part of the creation of the North Airfield Safety Study – the North Runway Complex at LAX would be as safe as humanly possible with: (1) a center taxiway; (2) better runway lighting and marking; and (3) better pilot and controller training. Additional separation of 340 feet would be throwing good money after bad.