Las Vegas Air Traffic Plan Called Unsafe

Critics of the Federal Aviation Administration's plan to direct as many as 200 flights a day over the western Las Vegas Valley have shifted the focus of their opposition from aircraft noise.

"No one can say it will never happen, but from a safety standpoint, aviation is one of the safest modes of transport there is," he said. "And I think that includes people that might be injured on the ground."

McCarran protested in 2001 when the FAA eliminated the old right turn, Walker said. Since then, the county has urged the FAA "to fix the problem they created."

The current proposal would restore the efficiency lost in 2001, Walker said. But he was careful to say that the airport doesn't support this plan.

Today, the lack of the right turn means added delays. Eventually, though, Walker said, the inefficiency would reduce the number of passengers the airport could handle by about 1 million travelers per year. With the right turn, the airport projects that it will reach its limit of 53 million passengers a year in 2011.

Since debate of the plan began in November, Mayor Oscar Goodman repeatedly has said that his main concern is safety. When the FAA decided this month to allow public comment until March, Goodman said he hoped the committee would be able to provide the City Council, and eventually the FAA, with a report of concerns and questions about safety.

Although there haven't been any serious crashes at McCarran or cases of people being killed from falling plane debris in the Las Vegas Valley, Goodman has pointed to cases such as the Dec. 20 crash of a seaplane into the ocean off Miami. The crash claimed the lives of the 20 people onboard.

"Imagine if there were people under that plane," the mayor said.

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