As the Los Angeles City Council approved a plan for a $1.2 billion mid-field concourse west of Tom Bradley International Terminal, to be completed by 2012, a runway incursion occurred at LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) the following day, Thursday, August 16th, between two commercial airliners, focusing attention on controversial airport proposals to move the north runways.

Councilwoman Janice Hahn, who represents the 15th District, received the unanimous support of her council colleagues Wednesday, August 15th, to build at least ten new gates for international travelers at LAX, and she had asked for the city airport department — Los Angeles World Airports — to establish a timeline for construction of the new midfield concourse at the west side of Tom Bradley International Terminal, which will also get new gates during its renovation.

A people-mover to transport passengers between terminals was also approved.

City Council also changed the LAX Specific Plan to move the midfield concourse and the people-mover from a “yellow light” designation which required extra scrutiny, to a “green light” project in accordance with the late 2006 LAX Settlement Agreement, said Hahn.

Funding sources are from Tom Bradley International Terminal and include passenger facility charges and other airport specific funds.

“Needless to say, it’s a good decision because we are demonstrating to all that LAX will finally be raised from a pathetic to a good-serving airport in at least two places, the Tom Bradley International Terminal and the new concourse building,” said Denny Schneider, president of Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion (ARSAC). “It tells the airlines and travelers that we’re serious about improving their experience.”

NEAR COLLISION — The near collision of two commercial jetliners on the tarmac on the north field runway of the airport August 16th occurred when a WestJet Boeing 737 reportedly came less than 200 feet and possibly as little as 50 feet from hitting a Northwest Airlines Airbus A320 that was taking off. The WestJet plane had shifted from an outside runway, where it landed, toward an inside runway where the Airbus was taking off. No injuries were reported.

Ian Gregor, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), said preliminary evidence indicated a “double mistake.”

Gregor said the arriving pilot, before receiving final instructions from the air controller, had switched his radio frequency to the ground traffic controller, who cleared the pilot without consulting with the air controller, who typically guides a pilot from approximately seven miles out until he physically lands on the tarmac.

Gregor also commented on local radio station KNX 1070 that the real problem was the fact that the northern airfield needed to be moved and made longer.

Airport officials have contended that the northern runway needs to be made longer to accommodate the new, larger aircraft and to avoid incursions, but local residents opposed to having homes and businesses once again destroyed by airport encroachment have vowed to fight that proposed plan.

Schneider said that the Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion is pushing for a NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) safety study of the LAX North Runway Complex.

NASA STUDY CHANGE —”ARSAC vehemently disagrees with the six-to-one decision of the Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners (BOAC) to include new, large airplane capacity questions in a NASA study of the LAX north runway complex [approved by airport commissioners Monday, August 20th], and these changes are unacceptable and a deal-breaker,” said Schneider.

“Political rhetoric attempting to align a near catastrophe [Thursday’s incursion] with efforts to stop LAX expansion is misleading, incorrect and inappropriate,” Schneider said. “Few people would agree to have their homes bulldozed to move a neighborhood street 340 feet north because the local intersection had too many near misses caused by people running a red light during rush hour.

“LAX expansion proponents must realize that the sky above is not going to expand and that we are again approaching operational maximums for landing and taking off during peak hours. We need more airports.

“There are other things to be done other than spending billions to move runways, that is why we support a NASA safety study to force them to be implemented.

“Over the years the FAA and Los Angeles World Airports officials have made many safety improvements, like runway status lights that are like traffic signals at intersections.

“These should be implemented immediately. If you want to know why they are not already in place, ask them.”

Airport officials have maintained that LAX was built for a different era of smaller and slower aircraft, and that the influx of the new breed of larger aircraft requires a longer runway to allow safe takeoffs and landings for these aircraft.