A new safety system that alerts pilots to potential runway collisions is now operating at Los Angeles International Airport.
The system, called runway status lights, uses a series of red lights embedded in the pavement to warn pilots if it's unsafe to enter or cross a runway, or to take off.
An agreement between the FAA and the city of Los Angeles called for the airport to fund the $7 million system and the FAA to install and maintain it.
The runway status lights system is connected to LAX's ground radar system. Pilots approaching a runway see red lights illuminate if the airport's ground surveillance radar detects traffic on or approaching that same runway.
Pilots must stop when they see the red lights. Air traffic control gives clearance to cross or enter a runway. After the lights go off the pilot must verify clearance before proceeding. Vehicle operators will also use the system.
Los Angeles is the third U.S. airport to operate a runway status lights system. This system is already in use at Dallas/Ft. Worth and San Diego where it has proven highly effective in preventing potentially dangerous runway incidents.
By 2011 the FAA also plans to deploy the system at Atlanta, Baltimore-Washington International, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago O'Hare, Denver, Detroit, Washington Dulles, Fort Lauderdale, Houston Intercontinental, John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, Newark, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Seattle.
Runway Status Lights are the latest safety enhancement at LAX. The FAA recently installed the most technologically advanced ground radar system, Airport Surface Detection Equipment-Model X, in the air traffic control tower. ASDE-X collects data from more sources than LAX’s previous ground radar system, and provides air traffic controllers with color map displays showing the location of all aircraft and vehicles on the runways and taxiways.