FAA to Investigate Runway Incursions at Long Beach Airport – Others

Thursday, October 11, 2007

By Kelly Puente
The Long Beach (CA) Press-Telegram LONG BEACH – The Federal Aviation Administration will tour Long Beach Airport today as part of a new runway safety action plan for U.S. airports. The FAA is conducting safety reviews at 20 airports throughout the country where runway incursions are a top concern, said FAA spokesman Ian Gregor. Other airports under review in California include LAX, John Wayne, San Francisco and San Jose International. Long Beach was chosen because of its high rate of runway incursions, Gregor said. Runway incursions are incidents where an aircraft enters the runway without clearance, comes dangerously close to another aircraft or actually collides with an aircraft. A runway safety action team will inspect the airport in four main areas: cockpit procedures, airport signage and markings, air traffic procedures and technology.

“We’re going to look at any possible problems and solutions we haven’t considered,” Gregor said.

The team will also look at precise locations where problems have occurred.

After today’s review, the FAA will develop a runway safety action plan to decide if any safety changes need to be made. The results of the study are expected by Oct. 22.

Historically, Long Beach has had a high rate of incursions when compared to other airports of its size.

“We’ve actually been looking at Long Beach for a number of years,” Gregor said.

The airport is still one of the country’s busiest general aviation facilities, he said, which contributes to the high number of incursions.

The airport also has a high number of incursions due to pilot error. About 60 runway incursions have been reported from January 2003 to October 2007. Of those, 50 were caused by pilot error.

“Pilot education and outreach are one of our highest priorities,” said Assistant Airport Manager Christine Edwards.

Edwards attributes much of the problem to the complicated “tic-tac-toe” runway layout that has evolved on top of the airport’s original grid, built in 1920.

“With our complex layout, we’re always going to be a high-risk airport for incursions, no matter what we do,” Edwards said.

The national runway safety study was prompted by recent close calls at some of the nation’s busiest airports, according to the FAA. So far this year, there have been 21 serious runway incursions.

Serious incursions happen when a pilot has to take extreme action to avoid a collision or a collision actually occurs.

Even with a high number of incursions, which are mostly minor, Long Beach has never had a fatality, FAA records show.

“It’s still a very safe airport,” Gregor said.

Edwards hopes the FAA study will lead to grants for airport improvements.

“With the FAA’s special attention, hopefully we can get some more money for research and safety,” Edwards said.

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