FAA Cites Runway Configuration Challenges At KVGT Safety Meeting


The FAA hosted a safety meeting at North Las Vegas Airport (KVGT) in Nevada on Monday (Sept. 19). The meeting was prompted by last July’s midair collision that claimed four lives. In that accident, a Piper Malibu arriving from the northeast apparently lined up on Runway 30R instead of Runway 30L as it had been cleared (and had acknowledged). It collided with a Cessna 172 on a training flight attempting to land on Runway 30R. At the meeting, as reported by local news television station Fox5 Vegas, local pilots and representatives of Clark County joined the FAA in addressing challenges with the configuration of the airport’s two parallel runways 12L/30R (5,001 by 75 feet) and 12R/30L (4,203 by 75 feet).

In addition to the offset approach and departure ends, the measurements of the parallel runways’ Runway Safety Areas (RSAs) are well tighter than what is now standard.

The FAA representative speaking at Monday’s meeting said, “The runway safety area at North Las Vegas is not typical or standard. The distances from the departure and approach ends of the runways is 600 feet and from the center line to the end of the RSA is 75 feet for North Las Vegas. Standard would be 1,000 feet off the departure end or approach end and then 250 feet off of each side of the center line.” In other words, not only do the offset approach and departure ends afford less buffer than usual and can be confusing to pilots, but the parallel runway centerlines are much closer to each other than current standards dictate (The airport first opened on Dec. 7, 1941—Pearl Harbor Day).

Among the safety recommendations proposed at the meeting were several avenues to further ensure that pilots were aware of and complied with the right and left traffic patterns for the two runways.

The Clark County representative also said the process of compiling a master plan for the North Las Vegas airport will launch in November, but it would be “years” for any physical changes to be completed. The county representative told Monday’s gathering, “We have had our challenges with [some of] the geometry of the airport. [It] is so old that some of it needs to be refreshed.”

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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  1. From the approach plate, I would assume that 30R “looked” like the longer runway on approach.
    That would be a perception problwm where 30R extends further out into the approach and thuse would appear longer than 30L. I would assume that “visual illusion” was the problem rather than the distance appart.

  2. Having flown in and out of KVGT a good bit over the last 5 years or so, it can be a challenge, especially with the high levels of student traffic, mostly on 12L/30R. The perception you highlight is indeed present, and it takes a certain amount of preparation and concentration to avoid falling prey to it. One possible way to deal with this might be to establish the downwind for 30L around a mile out, instead of closer (it is possible that the Malibu flew a close-in downwind and literally did not see 30L); and also establishing the base for 30L farther out, say a mile or more to avoid potential conflicts with the head-on traffic on the base for 30R. A staggered turn-in, as it were. It is often disconcerting to have head-on traffic called on base and not being able to see it. The urban visual environment makes for an extremely difficult traffic sighting challenge…

  3. I think we have to be careful to say the design here was the issue. It may have been a factor, but the responsibility lies in see and avoid by the pilots. In this case the Malibu erred.

    Pilots who train at airports with two parallel runways with busy traffic are ever so aware. At DVT we were so paranoid and rightfully so.

    Was the Malibu complacent? Did the pilot brief the airport ahead of time? I don’t know. But I believe traffic for both runways was being called and that alone should have been enough. Otherwise we would have have planes fall out of the sky on a weekly basis there.

    As for the airport it has a weird layout and parking was tight last time I was there.

  4. What are they gonna do, paint a HUGE “L” and “R” in flaming red on the thresholds? Pilots will make mistakes, and all we can do is emphasize the need for flight vigilance and scanning techniques to minimize these types of errors.

    • That seems like a great idea! Do it with hi intensity lights, so that the runways can be seen in poorly lit situations, like night and overcast weather. And, probably a (relatively) inexpensive solution as well!

    • 40 years ago I could see lining up on the wrong runway… but today you would have to be a complete Harrison Ford to ignore a full color moving map geo-referenced approach plate and a localizer backup.

      • What a Shame-On-YOU Arthur J F. Firstly for denigrating another pilot you seemingly DO NOT KNOW and Secondly for endorsing yet another “head inside the cockpit” fool-hardy practice reliance upon “moving map” recommendation. Mr. Ford owned his error in a quite public way and took full responsibility and recurrent training initiative. YOU and Your self-righteous attitude are the very behavior the Malibu demonstrated at VGT. The Tower shares great responsibility in the VGT accident for not pointing out 172 traffic and requiring the Malibu to make identification and maintain separation from traffic. All PARALLEL runway operations should REQUIRE VISUAL CONTACT with parallel traffic or TOWER should “call” turns to final and maintain separation responsibility.

        • Addendum: If Tower had done this at the Centennial accident and VGT as well these accidents would not have occurred. “See and Avoid” should still apply and TOWER should assure that practice is reinforced by requiring later-arriving traffic to “report sighting” and “maintaining visual separation” responses.