San Diego's Lindbergh Closing Its Runway in Wee Hours

Two nighttime projects at Lindbergh Field, including an emergency system to stop aircraft overruns, will shut down the airport's single runway during normally dormant hours for about four months.

The closure from 11:30 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. began Saturday and is expected to remain in effect until Nov. 7. Commercial airlines and other regular airport users know about the restrictions.

Under normal circumstances, arrivals are permitted at all hours. Departures from 11:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. are discouraged by a noise curfew, which led to 41 violations in 2005. As of July 1, fines for curfew violations start at $2,000.

The runway work, however, requires absolutely no arrivals or departures, said Ted Sexton, vice president of operations for the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority.

Sexton said the airport is installing a system to allow an aircraft to stop safely should it overrun the runway when arriving from the east. The technology, called an Engineered Materials Arresting System, is designed to prevent the type of accident that occurred in March 2000 at Burbank Airport when a Southwest Airlines jet skidded off the runway and onto an adjacent street.

The same kind of accident at Lindbergh Field could put an aircraft into a channel off the San Diego harbor.

The system, first installed at New York's JFK International Airport in 1996, consists of rising rows of soft concrete blocks that would crumble and gradually stop a runaway aircraft.

The Federal Aviation Administration is covering $8.7 million of the project's $10.8 million cost, with the remainder coming from a portion of the $4.50 passenger facility charges on tickets for departures from San Diego.

The airport also is resurfacing its 9,400-foot runway along a 66-foot-wide center swath, which bears most of the pressure of aircraft operations. Each night, work crews will grind off and resurface a small section of the runway, leaving time for the new asphalt to cure and cool.

Passenger facility charges are paying for the $12 million project.

The ban on late-night arrivals affects mainly air cargo operations, which have adjusted their schedules to avoid the closure. In an emergency, airport officials said, arriving flights could be diverted to a military airfield or a commercial airport in the Los Angeles area.

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