The study is expected to provide a comprehensive evaluation of the airfield geometry and alternatives to reduce risk on the airfield in response to a report by the Commercial Aviation Safety Team (CAST), a federally organized group comprised of government and aviation industry experts.
The CAST report, published in 2007, contained a review of “wrong runway landing event” threats at various airports across the country. As a result of the report, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) put out a “Call to Action” for 20 airports, including Long Beach Airport, with a high probability of an event, to take action to reduce risks. Actions include enhanced markings, recurrent pilot training and holding a runway safety meeting, according to Rachel Korkos, the airport’s senior civil engineer.
The airport, which is currently constructing a new airline passenger concourse and terminal, currently sits on 1,166 acres of land, has five runways and 10 taxiways. Airport operations include daily flights of commercial airlines and commuter aircraft, along with 300,000 general aviation operations, or GA, including corporate aviation charter jets, fixed based operators, or FBOs, small private airplanes, helicopters and flight schools.
The upcoming airfield geometry study continues discussions about reducing safety risks at the airport, Korkos said. “The geometry study will analyze the complex nature and taxiway system at LGB and make recommendations with an eye toward safety and reduction of risk,” she said.
One alternative brought forward is to shorten or close two north-south runways, known as Runways 16L-34R and 16R-34L, which airport staff said are “unlighted, in need of repair and extensive maintenance and are rarely used.” Among other alternatives are converting runways to taxiways, removing portions of runways or taxiways, installing runway guard lights and modifying pavement markings.
Although final recommendations won’t be determined until the end of the two-year study, airport staff said it is likely that airfield modifications will be recommended, which may open up some areas for development. Potential uses of the property would be analyzed by a strategic plan with a main focus on diversifying revenue streams for the airport, while keeping costs low for users, tenants and leaseholders.“It is very important to keep the airport financially viable with a plan for the future,” said Airport Director Mario Rodriguez. “Should areas open for development, they will be analyzed for potential users to ensure the continued financial health and viability of the airport.”
The strategic plan would look at a wide range of resources regarding surrounding partners and infrastructure, along with comparisons to other airports in the region, analyzing aviation industry trends, and various other factors.
Rodriguez said keeping costs low is not only important to stay competitive in maintaining a base of commercial airlines, which generates the bulk of profits, but also for keeping costs low for the airport’s general aviation community. One of the goals to modifying the airfield, he said, is to create a “new home for general aviation.”
Airport fees impact all users, including airfield maintenance operators, which, in turn, ultimately impacts costs for the entire GA community, Rodriguez said. LGB has an economic impact that exceeds $4 billion a year, he said. “Controlling costs and finding new revenue is essential to keep the user fees competitive,” he said. “If we are able to maintain the capabilities of the airfield while reducing costs, it creates a win-win for our users.”
After initial data collection and analysis, the airport is expected to conduct necessary coordination with the FAA, stakeholders, airport user groups, tenants and the public during various meetings. Additionally, any proposal to close runways or implement airfield modifications would have to be approved by the FAA and be required to undergo an environmental impact report.
Missouri-based HNTB Corporation was awarded two separate contracts, totaling more than $1.1 million, to assist the airport in conducting the geometry study and strategic plan. The Long Beach City Council awarded the contract last December, and the city attorney’s office is currently finalizing it. The consulting company previously provided design and construction support services for the airport’s modernization program, including the air carrier ramp upgrades and the new passenger concourse and terminal project.
Funding for the study came from FAA grants received for airport capital improvements. The FAA is paying 95 percent of the cost, while the rest will be funded by airport operating funds, which the airport is hoping to cover by applying for passenger facility charges. The study and plan is expected to support 12 full-time equivalent positions.
(Sean Belf - LB Business Journal)