Congresswomen Jane Harman and Maxine Waters have both issued written responses to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Randy Babbitt regarding his letter urging Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to reconfigure the northern airfield at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
Harman represents the 36th District that includes Playa del Rey and El Segundo, and Waters represents the 35th District that includes LAX.
In his April 2nd letter to the mayor, Babbitt stated that he urges the mayor, the Los Angeles City Council, and the Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners to reconfigure the north airfield because of new points and information, and that “the FAA has raised serious safety questions that cannot be ignored.”
“I am concerned that the most recent North Airfield Safety Study (NASS) will be used as a reason not to pursue this solution. That would be a serious mistake,” Babbitt wrote.
“The FAA conducted a detailed review of the study and identified several critical flaws in the study’s assumptions, methodology and conclusions.”
Harman’s April 8th letter to Babbitt stated, “This is a critical issue for my constituents and me, and I support efforts to make LAX more modern and secure.”
Harman said that moving the runways would involve “destructive incursions” into surrounding neighborhoods, and that a 2007 Transportation Department Inspector General report found that 80 percent of runway incidents at LAX involve pilot error rather than runway geometry.
“Prior to moving the north runway, I would appreciate knowing if airport officials have addressed the problem identified in that report from three years ago — and if the improvements can be made without moving the runways,” Harman wrote.
“I would also like to know the timetable for deploying new safety technologies at LAX. When are the additional runway status lights, the airport surface detection equipment and Model X ground radar referred to in your letter to be installed?
“In the FAA’s view, what will their effect be on airport safety? This would be important to know prior to expanding LAX’s footprint into neighboring communities. And perhaps it would be useful to update the inspector general’s report with information about incursions at LAX from 2007 to 2010,” Harman continued.
“In the future, I hope that your office will directly contact me and my staff to alert us of FAA actions concerning LAX. I am eager to work with you. My offer still stands to organize a visit to the airport, to enable you to see first-hand existing safety and other security improvements and continuing challenges.”
Waters’ April 12th letter to Babbitt stated, “This (FAA) letter disregarded the conclusions of a credible study comparing the safety of the current configuration of the LAX north airfield with several proposed alternative configurations.
“This study, entitled ‘LAX North Airfield Safety Study,’ was conducted by an independent panel of experts, with the support of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), using simulations of airport operations at the NASA Ames Research Center. As you know, the study concluded ‘the north airfield of LAX is extremely safe under the current configuration.’”
Waters claimed that Babbitt’s letter also “ignored the concerns of the communities surrounding LAX, most of which are in my congressional district. Residents of Westchester and Playa del Rey, which are located adjacent to the LAX north airfield, are strongly opposed to its reconfiguration, which could force families to leave their homes. Residents of the City of Inglewood, which is located under the flight path of aircraft using the north airfield, are concerned that reconfiguration will result in an increase in airport noise.”
Waters claimed that, to the best of her knowledge, Babbitt’s office made no attempt to meet with individuals in these communities prior to sending his letter, nor was there any attempt to speak with Waters prior to sending the letter, despite the fact that LAX is located in her congressional district.
Immediately after the NASA study was released, Waters said she issued a statement applauding the study.
“I am also concerned that your letter focuses on the efficiency of airport operations as a justification for reconfiguring the north runway,” Waters wrote to Babbitt. “Safety and efficiency should be treated as separate issues.
“While airport safety is of paramount concern, air traffic efficiency must be evaluated in light of other issues affecting both the airport and local communities. The concerns of local communities should not be sacrificed in order to maximize the efficiency of airport operations.”
Waters concludes by saying, “I respectfully request that you reconsider your position on the LAX North Airfield Safety Study.
“I urge you to give due consideration to the extensive research and simulations of airport operations on which this study is based before urging the City of Los Angeles to disregard its conclusions. I also urge you to consider the concerns of the communities surrounding LAX before urging the City of Los Angeles to reconfigure the north airfield.”