L.A. Airport Opens Rebuilt Runway

A major runway at Los Angeles International Airport reopened Monday after eight months of construction aimed at improving safety at the world's fifth-busiest passenger airport.

The southernmost runway, one of two parallel runways on the airport's south side, was closed in July and rebuilt 55 feet away to create room for a center aisle between the two.

It was part of a $333 million renovation project designed to reduce close calls involving planes landing, taking off and taxiing. The airport historically has had among the nation's highest rates of runway incursions, when a plane or vehicle on the ground gets too close to a plane that is landing or taking off.

The airport's unusual layout, featuring two sets of parallel runways with the terminal between, requires pilots landing on an outer runway to cross an inner runway on a series of taxiways. On a typical day there, airplanes will cross active runways 900 times.

Creating the new center aisle will give airplanes a place to wait before crossing to the terminals. It will be built in phases over the next two years while planes on the reopened runway use a series of taxiways.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said the project also allows the airport to "be better able to efficiently handle the next generation of aircraft, such as the Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner, that are coming into service in the near future."

The Airbus A380, the largest airliner in the world, landed at the Los Angeles airport for the first time March 19. The double-decked aircraft is 239 feet long and has a wingspan of more than 261 feet.

Officials said months of planning by the Federal Aviation Administration and the airport agency, fewer operations at the airport and good weather helped avoid major delays during the shutdown. Less than 1 percent of flights from July through March experienced delays of 15 minutes of longer because of the runway closure, according to air traffic control data.

"I'll bet if you spoke with the average passenger flying through here, they wouldn't have known anything was different," said Marv Shappi, operations manager at the airport tower.

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