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LAX Shuts Runway Again to Prepare for New Jumbo Jet

Times Staff Writer

One of Los Angeles International Airport’s four runways, shut down earlier this year for reconstruction, is being closed again to relocate a taxiway so it can handle a new generation of jumbo jets.

Airport officials said Monday that they do not expect any disruption of airport operations or travel schedules while Runway 24 Left is idled. New air traffic procedures, established to ease delays at LAX when the runway was first closed, will remain in effect.

The taxiway work, which began Monday, is expected to take four months--the same amount of time it took to rebuild the runway. The runway was first closed from mid-February to mid-June.

“The traffic today is running very smoothly,” said Ted Davies, who manages the Federal Aviation Administration’s Los Angeles tower. “We have had absolutely no slowdowns.”

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The airport, the third-busiest in the nation behind Chicago’s O’Hare and Atlanta’s Hartsfield, handles about 1,600 flights a day. But, with summer ending, airlines are reducing the number of flights and that total may decrease as much as 5% in coming months, airport manager Stephen Yee said.

Airport and FAA officials said the taxiway work could have been done without closing the runway full time. In part for safety reasons, however, it was decided to close 24 Left again and use it as a taxiway during the construction.

The taxiway, one of five major, east-west taxiways at the airport, will be relocated about 400 feet south of 24 Left. The relocation is necessary to provide more clearance space between the new Boeing 747-400 jumbo jets and maintenance trucks and other vehicles using an adjacent service road, airport officials said.

The aircraft, which will be the world’s largest commercial jetliner, capable of carrying as many as 660 passengers, will have a 211-foot wingspan, 12 feet longer than its predecessor, a Boeing spokesman said. Airlines have ordered 146 of the aircraft and taken out options on another 71, the company said, with the first scheduled to be delivered to Northwest Airlines in December.

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Airport officials predicted that LAX will operate on a business-as-usual basis in large part because of a national “free flow” takeoff system under which flights out of LAX are allowed to leave before those at other airports during bad weather or backups in air traffic. The FAA, which adopted the plan to minimize delays at LAX while the runway was under reconstruction, had planned to discontinue the system at the end of this month, but agreed to continue it until the taxiway work is completed.

One negative consequence of the closure of 24 Left, as flights are redirected onto the other three runways, has been extra jet noise for some residents living near the airport.

Runway 24 Left is one of the two runways nearest the airport’s terminals and farthest from the communities affected by jet noise.


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