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LAX is expected to get runway warning light system

The $6-million project is designed to reduce close calls with aircraft crossing on taxiways, the FAA says.

February 26, 2008|Jennifer Oldham | Times Staff Writer

Federal officials are expected to announce today that they will install a $6-million warning system at LAX that dramatically reduced close calls on the ground in tests at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

At a news conference this afternoon, Robert A. Sturgell, acting FAA administrator, is expected to detail the agency's plan to install lights on one of the airport's four runways and at various taxiways on the north and south airfields. Testing is to begin early next year.

The lights work two ways: For planes about to land or take off, red lights illuminate on the runway if another aircraft is crossing downfield. For planes waiting to cross a runway, red lights go on at taxiway intersections if another jet is about to take off or land.

Safety advocates for years have urged the Federal Aviation Administration, which operates the nation's air traffic network, to deploy the lights, saying there is no automated system that directly warns pilots of conflicts on the airfield.

Close calls on the ground reached record highs at the nation's busiest airports last year. Los Angeles International Airport topped the list, with the most runway safety violations over an eight-year period. Officials at Los Angeles World Airports, which operates the city's airports, have tried for years to stem close calls.

FAA officials said the lights would help with LAX's persistent problem of close calls but added that the airport still must widen the distance between the two parallel runways on its north side. Residents in nearby Westchester oppose such a project because of potential further disruption to their community.

"Runway status lights are an added layer of defense against runway incursions," said Ian Gregor, an FAA spokesman. "But the best defense is proper airfield geometry. We believe [airport officials] should reconfigure the north airfield."

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jennifer.oldham@latimes.com

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