Business `leaders’ bar safe alternative to LAX

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWhicker: Clemson demonstrates that it’s tough to knock out the champA NASA review of airport safety found at least one instance when both pilot and co-pilot were sound asleep on approach to Denver, with the controller yelling at them that they were approaching too fast. Luckily, the pilot woke up and was able to save the day. So what is the FAA’s response to the GAO report? That LAX, the smallest major airport in the country, should move its runways closer to adjacent communities so that sleep-deprived personnel will be less likely to run planes into each other. And what is our response as the biggest part of the fifth-largest economy in the world? In the face of current concerns about airport safety and the “need” to destroy airport-adjacent communities, it may finally be time to look seriously at the future. Clifton “Cliff” Moore, the only Los Angeles airport director who ever truly understood the future of aviation, tried in the 1960s and ’70s to face the fact that LAX will never be adequate for 21st-century aviation. He ran LAX during the onset of the jet age, when planes began to need more space and the number of people flying increased, thus making airports increasingly complex. He knew that LAX (at 3,500 acres) was too small and that even expansion had practical limits. So Cliff persuaded the city administration and airport commission to plan for a much larger airport where land was available without overrunning residential neighborhoods. In the 1970s, Los Angeles bought 11,000 acres at Palmdale adjacent to a military air facility and signed a joint-use agreement so that military and civilian authorities could coordinate. And, alas, that’s more or less the end of that story. Is there anyone who truly likes flying in and out of Los Angeles International Airport? Recent growth at other local airports – Burbank and Long Beach in particular – certainly suggests that people would rather go elsewhere as long as flights are available. Besides, is it safe to fly at LAX today? According to a General Accountability Office review, the Federal Aviation Administration has fallen down on the job of maintaining aviation safety. The result is overly tired air-traffic controllers and sleepless pilots – a recipe for disaster. Our local air traffic controllers, like their national leaders, complain that shifts are too long and experienced controllers too few. They and others have pointed out that the FAA has failed to install lighting and other equipment at LAX that would improve safety. Subsequent city administrations, egged on by the airlines and by the business establishment, have devoted themselves not to planning for the future, but to fixing the obvious flaws at an airport that can never become a truly efficient modern facility. Communities surrounding the outmoded LAX have, like communities everywhere, an interest in maintaining their homes and businesses, to say nothing of their quality of life. For this understandable concern, they are vilified by the members of the downtown business establishment as standing in the way of progress. But who is really standing in the way of progress? Instead of arguing that – because public officials dropped the ball 40 years ago – Palmdale is today not well served by roads, doesn’t it make sense for business “leaders” to demand that ground-access improvements start now, so that we will have a useful modern airport 10 or 20 years from now? Cliff Moore never pretended to be a “business leader,” but his ability to look realistically into the future should be a model for us all. Ruth Galanter is a former member and president of the Los Angeles City Council, on which she served for 16 years.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img