NASA solicits safety report on proposed changes at LAX

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Reducing the potential for runway incursions at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in the event that certain proposed changes are implemented at the facility is one of the aims of a forthcoming safety assessment report for which NASA Ames Research Center is soliciting a research firm.

The agency has issued a request for quotations (RFQ) for an assessment of the potential effects on safety and operational efficiency of proposed changes to LAX’s North Airfield configuration, as well as a recommendation for implementation action.

“This study will thoroughly examine the proposals for runway configuration change and identify credible, significant benefits that may be realized by completion,” says NASA Ames.

The North Airfield complex currently consists of runways 24L/06R and 24R/06L, which are 10,285ft long (3,136m) and 8,925ft long, respectively. The configuration was completed in the 1970’s when it was designed to efficiently accommodate US FAA Design Group III and IV aircraft, such as the Boeing 727, 737, McDonnell Douglas DC-9 and DC-10 aircraft, which were the dominating fleet until the late 1990’s, notes Bethesda, Maryland-based Washington Consulting Group.

However, today’s fleet mix at LAX has a quickly growing number of Design Group V and VI aircraft (Boeing 747, 767 and eventually 787 aircraft as well as Airbus 340s) “that generate significant air traffic complexities not originally considered into the North Airfield design”, adds the consultancy.

The report now being requested by NASA Ames must be based on historical runway safety data, traffic demand forecasts and available technology. Consideration is to be given to projected traffic growth, accommodation of new requirements for Group VI aircraft operations, and emerging technologies or equipment that may be employed to improve safety or efficiency, says the agency.

Significantly, the study must “identify the underlying causes of runway incursions and assess the severity of the problem, considering future traffic requirements and configuration options”. This requires the review of Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) reports and other sources of runway incursion data for the past 20 years, considering only major incidents for those older than 10 years, notes NASA Ames.

Participants must also “consider the likelihood of reducing the potential for runway incursions and improving operational efficiency through use of available technological improvements, such as; runway status lights (RSLs) and ASDE-X [Airport Surface Detection Equipment Model X]”.

According to a study by the International Aviation Management Group titled “Analysis of LAX North Airfield Alternatives”, Los Angeles World Airports Authority (LAWA), the agency that manages LAX, “has in recent history ranked among the highest of the nation’s commercial service airports in runway incursions, leading the nation in incursions from 2000 through 2003”. The study had been requested by LAWA. 

All “responsible sources” may submit a response to NASA Ames’ RFQ, says the agency. However, previous reports and background information that are integral to LAX’s modernization program, available in the airport’s ‘Master Plan’ or ‘Plan Amendment’ study will be provided by the Government and LAWA.

The NASA Ames contract is to run for a period of three months from the date of contract award.