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Toward a Safer Flight Plan : Needed urgently at LAX: More controllers and better radar

February 02, 1992

If there is one conclusion that should be drawn from the latest federal report on air traffic safety at Los Angeles International Airport, it should be that there's still much to be done to make the nation's third-busiest airport a safer place for travelers.

The report, issued Wednesday by the Federal Aviation Administration, found that some notable changes--such as reducing glare for pilots, standardizing runway crossing procedures, improving equipment in the control tower and formulating better plans to handle ground congestion--are being made in the wake of last February's fiery runway collision between a USAir jet and a SkyWest commuter plane.

But the FAA also found some continuing trouble spots. For example, the airport's control tower operation still needs nine additional air traffic controllers to handle the crushing workload. In the meantime, LAX's 32 controllers work the equivalent of a six-day workweek, when overtime is included. These grueling schedules contribute to stress and fatigue and increase the chance of human error.

Construction of a state-of-the-art ground radar system, which will help controllers monitor planes moving between the terminals and runways, is scheduled to begin next month.

That should proceed apace because one doesn't have to look any farther than pictures of a charred USAir fuselage to remember what's at stake.

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