Facing the prospect of hour-long flight delays at Los Angeles International Airport while one runway is closed for repaving, airline executives met with the Federal Aviation Administration yesterday to juggle their flight schedules.
Airport officials in Los Angeles plan to close one of the airport's four main runways in January for four to six months while the runway is rebuilt. The runway, 24 Left, is cracked and sections of it have been loosened by the weight of some of the heavy jetliners that use it. The 10,285-foot runway was built in 1958.
Jacquline Smith, manager of the FAA's regional air traffic division, said that, even after the schedule adjustments, travelers may experience some delays arriving in Los Angeles. She said the agency plans to keep flights flowing out of the airport, so the ground won't be tied up while the runway is closed.
The Los Angeles airport is so heavily used that the runway closure -- and subsequent delays -- could have a ripple effect and clog air traffic all over the country.
The airport has about 1,650 takeoffs and landings every day. Out of those, FAA deputy chief counsel Edward P. Faberman said, the agency was looking for airlines to move 60 flights away from peak hours. Most of the anticipated delays would be arrivals, he said.
The agency will limit takeoffs and landings to 100 per hour, all but four allocated to commercial airline operations. General aviation pilots will be limited to four takeoffs and landings per hour under the proposed plan.
The exercise was similar to schedule discussions last March, in which airlines operating in Atlanta, Chicago and several other airports moved flights to ease delays. Delays caused by air traffic control, which amount to about 10 percent of the total, have declined by 14 percent throughout the fall -- in part because of good weather and the schedule adjustments. In contrast, delays at Los Angeles have been increasing steadily, up by almost 28 percent this year.
In addition to rearranging flights, the FAA said it plans a variety of other measures to ease congestion over Los Angeles. For example, flights to nearby cities, such as San Francisco, San Diego and Las Vegas, will be rerouted to lower altitudes to make way for through traffic.
The closure of the runway prompted American Airlines to petition the government to assign takeoff and landing "slots" at the airport. American's request was opposed by other airlines, who regarded any government intervention as a move back toward airline regulation.
Four airports operate with assigned slots -- Washington's National, Chicago's O'Hare, and New York's Kennedy and LaGuardia -- that place a limit on the number of flights that can take off and land during peak hours.