New LAX Taxiway Makes the Airport Safer For You

LAX announced yesterday that the new center taxiway on the south runway complex has opened for business. There’s lots of talk about how this increases safety, but for the average traveler, I don’t think this really resonates without further explanation of what actually happens at the airport. So I decided to put together a little post to show you why you should care. Below you’ll see NACO airport diagrams from end of 2005/early 2006 (thanks Wikipedia) as well as the brand new one from today (pdf).

08_06_25 laxnewtaxiway

Before you walk away cursing this fairly complex-looking map, let me give you a little positioning help. You can see the terminals in the middle at the top of each diagram. Where it says C6 – that’s the ramp between United Terminals 7 and 8. The next one over is Terminal 6 where Continental, Virgin America, and others fly. Then Terminal 5 is Delta’s, Terminal 4 is American’s, and you can see half the Bradley terminal. This map is positioned so that North is straight up and the ocean is to the left.

Now, take a look at the runways. Previously, there was nothing separating them in the middle. Planes usually depart on the top runway and land on the bottom one. So, it would be typical for an airplane to land from the right and take a high speed exit on taxiway J, K, M, or T. It’s rare but not unheard of for an unfamiliar pilot to just keep rolling right on through the departure runway on his/her way to his gate. LAX has one of the worst near-miss rates and this is one of the reasons.

Now look at the new one. There are still some high speed exits that go straight through but not as many. Also, the new procedure will require that the aircraft exit on to the center taxiway before proceeding. So you might hear an aircraft directed to exit on AN and then turn on to AC. At that point, the pilot will have to wait before being cleared across the departure runway.

Hopefully that helps explain why this is good. It will help improve safety, and it’s a good investment. Unfortunately, the northern runways remain close together, and there is an active community protest to prevent the northernmost runway from moving a bit north to make room for a center taxiway. As you can imagine, I support the airport on this one in the name of safety, but then again, I don’t live in the neighborhood.

UPDATE on 6/25 @ 4p: Ian Gregor, FAA Spokesperson tells me that while my explanation is correct, the current NACO map is actually not so current. Apparently the new center taxiway now extends all the way west to where taxiway U lies. So, this is even better. NACO just hasn’t updated the file. This one says it’s good until July 3, so I assume we’ll see a new one next week.


8 Responses to New LAX Taxiway Makes the Airport Safer For You

  1. a.a says:

    Thanks very much for the explanation!
    This is why I read the Cranky Flier :)

  2. Chris says:

    A couple of things, I live in the neighborhood and i want the taxiway built on the the north side. People who move in next to an existing airport have no right to complain about the noise that was there long before you moved.

    Second someone brought it up to me when I used to spot on a regular basis that airports with center taxi ways like this also have issues with pilots who are unfamiliar with the airport landing on the center taxiway. Of course there are much fewer instances of that then the near misses at LAX.

    Since the well publicized near miss at LAX last year (or maybe it was this year, I’m too lazy to look it up) ATC at LAX has been very diligent to always clearly instruct aircraft landing on 24R to “hold short of 24L.” Before that near miss you wouldnt hear that full command as often because it was ‘assumed,’ well we all know what happens when you Assume…

  3. AN says:

    Agree with Chris. I dont get why noise would be significantly different if they moved the runway over. Yes, it’d be slightly closer to some homes, but it’s not like they can’t hear the planes now.

  4. Al B says:

    I also support reconfiguring the north airfield at LAX. My understanding of the protest by Westchester residents isn’t added noise, but that some homes would have to be razed to accommodate moving the north runway to make room for the center taxiway.

  5. The Traveling Optimist says:

    Anything, ANYTHING to make LAX a more efficient and safer operation should be applauded and executed immediately. Those few homes that might be leveled are probably owned by residents who well remember the swath of domestic destruction caused by the building of The 105 and don’t want it to happen to them, airplane noise notwithstanding.

    DFW here in Texas used to be in the middle of nowhere and now it is completely surrounded. Thanks to early planners for giving it enough breathing room even then to still grow within its boundaries today. Same thing will happen to DEN, eventually. Citizens of LA may complain about LAX now but consider the nearest possible plot of available land to build an alternate of the same size or larger if they don’t allow it to grow and meet the needs of today and tomorrow.

    Try to imagine Lufthansa, Qantas and British Airways flight crews announcing the landing in Los Angeles/Barton International Airport! LAX is here to stay, people, let it breathe!

  6. The Traveling Optimist says:

    Oops…long day. I meant Los Angeles/BARSTOW International Airport. Very conveniently located near The 15 and The 40 Junction!

  7. If you are seriousl interested in this you might want to go to the neighborhoord council Airport Relations meeting tonight (6/26) at 6:30 at the LAWA Soundproofing office. We will be meeting with Michael Foote LAX-ATC President and discussing safety on the North and South Airfield complexes.

  8. CF says:

    David Coffin – Thanks for the notice on that meeting tonight. Unfortunately, one of my employees is leaving so we have an event this evening so I won’t be able to make it. That being said, I would be happy if you kept me informed of future meetings. You’re welcome to include me on a mailing list if you’d like as well. The email address is cf@crankyflier.com.

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