Blakey Urges LAX to Fix Runways

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FAA Administrator Marion Blakey urged Los Angeles officials to get on with the job of putting more distance between two heavily-used parallel runways a week after two airliners came within 40 feet of colliding at a runway/taxiway intersection."I'll put it plainly," Associated Press quoted her as telling a lunch meeting of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. "However you decide to fix the airfield, get it done.

"The problem here is that the parallel runways on the north side are too close together," she said. "A landing aircraft that leaves the outward runway on a high-speed taxiway literally has only a few feet to stop before crossing the inner runway hold line." On Aug. 16 a WestJet Boeing 737 stopped just short of a runway being used by a Northwest A320 for takeoff and the wingtip of the Airbus passed 37 feet from the nose of the 737. And it now appears the ground controller handling the WestJet plane will take the full rap for the incident even though the FAA insists the Canadian pilot was partly to blame.

FAA spokesman Ian Gregor told the Calgary Herald that the unnamed pilot will avoid blame because there's no regulation covering the error he made in switching from the tower frequency to the ground controller before being told to do so. Gregor said it's "standard procedure" to wait for authorization from the tower before switching to ground but it's not a formal reg. In Gregor's mind, that doesn't leave the pilot off the hook. "It is our position that the actions of the WestJet pilot contributed to the incident by creating confusion in the air traffic controller's mind," Gregor said. WestJet was happy to fly through the loophole, however. Spokesman Richard Bartrem said that while such handoffs are mandatory in Canada, they aren't in the U.S. "There's an inconsistent application in the U.S. as to when that handshake, if you will, takes place," he said. "We didn't receive authorization, but it's not required," he said.