Release #08.009
February 27, 2008

Airport Modernization Fundamental to LAX Runway Safety
ALPA Hails FAA Runway Status Light Test Program Announcement

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA) welcomes the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) recent announcement that a runway status light test program will take place at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), but the association warns that the airport must also swiftly pursue modernization as the cornerstone of a multi-layered strategy to prevent runway incursions.

“LAX is an extremely busy and complex airport, and many factors contribute to the runway incursions that occur there,” said Capt. Terry McVenes, ALPA’s Executive Air Safety Chairman. “While we are strongly encouraged by the FAA’s commitment to make runway status lights operational by the beginning of 2009, we owe it to the millions of passengers and tons of cargo that move through LAX each year to act on all—not just some—of the solutions to improve runway safety.”

ALPA pilots operate at LAX every day of every year, and the Association has been deeply involved in plans to enhance safety on the airport’s runways. The airfield, which was designed in 1956 during the piston-engine era, is woefully outdated for today’s airliners and air traffic.

Moreover, forecasts predict that larger aircraft, including the Airbus A380 and the Boeing 747-8, with even more passengers and cargo will depend on LAX in the future. To address this challenge, ALPA strongly supports and recommends the swift completion of LAX’s plan for expansion of the north airfield. The north runway complex must be constructed in accordance with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) recommended practices for large airliners such as the A380 and the B-747-8. Sufficient land is available, and the noise impact on the surrounding communities would be negligible.

“The runway incursion risk at LAX demands a better runway and taxiway design,” continues McVenes. “The FAA has named runway configuration as a key factor in many runway incursions, and we know that LAX faces challenges in this area. Addressing that risk must be the top priority.”

To reduce the runway incursion risk at LAX and at airports across the country, ALPA maintains that the airline industry must implement runway status lights at all appropriate facilities and also take action in other areas, including enhancing airport signage and markings, addressing pilot and other airline worker fatigue, and leveraging technology to enhance situational awareness.

“Southern California is leading the industry in new technologies that will significantly increase efficiency, but the current ground infrastructure does not position the airport to make the most of these advances,” continues McVenes. “ALPA will continue to work together with all those involved in LAX operations to help make it a runway safety model for all high-volume airports.”

Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s largest pilot union representing more than 61,000 pilots at 43 airlines in the U.S. and Canada.

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Contacts: Pete Janhunen, Linda Shotwell, Molly Martin, 703/481-4440 or