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Pilots seek greater separation between LAX north runways

They say a planned increase in distance isn't enough to alleviate safety concerns.

June 05, 2007|Jennifer Oldham | Times Staff Writer

Pilots who use LAX added Monday to an escalating controversy over how to improve safety on the facility's north airfield, calling for an even wider separation of the two parallel runways.

In a rare appearance before the Airport Commission, representatives of the Air Line Pilots Assn. agreed with findings in reports released last week that the runways' tight spacing contributes to close calls between aircraft and cannot accommodate the coming generation of super-jumbo jets. The world's largest commercial aircraft, the Airbus A380, is scheduled to begin service at Los Angeles International next year.

Those reports suggested separating the runways, currently 700 feet apart, by 340 feet more.

But the pilots group said that would not be enough and called for moving the outer runway 370 to 443 feet north -- which could force officials to expand the airport's northern boundary into the already affected community of Westchester.

"That's definitely a line in the sand," said Capt. Jon Russell, Western-Pacific regional safety coordinator for the pilots organization.

The pilots' recommendation is likely to further upset airport neighbors, who have long complained of noise, air pollution and traffic caused by LAX and who oppose any efforts to expand the cramped facility.

Residents, and their local and federal representatives, are skeptical that a reconfiguring of the north airfield is really needed. And if it is, they contend, the need could be met by moving the runway just 100 feet.

Airport commissioners stressed at the meeting that they have not yet decided how to fix the half-century-old north airfield, adding that they are researching which options to submit for an environmental review.

"I certainly have not reached a conclusion at this point," said Airport Commissioner Walter Zifkin.

"There's a lot more we do need to know."

A public meeting on the north airfield studies will be held at 7 tonight at the Westchester Senior Citizen Center, 8740 Lincoln Blvd.

The studies can be found at www.laxmasterplan.org/technicalStudies.cfm.

jennifer.oldham@latimes.com

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