The nation’s third busiest airport is trying to mitigate the affect the space shuttle Endeavour has on travellers. Part of their plan to keep traffic flowing smoothly is encouraging those hoping to catch a glimpse of the shuttle to watch from locations like the El Segundo Ridge or the Griffith Observatory. Patrick Healy reports from El Segundo for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Sept. 20, 2012.
The nation's third busiest airport will be making way for the piggybacking shuttle Endeavour when it touches down for the final time on Friday.
For LAX, a safe and secure landing is only part of the mission. The other is to minimize disruption to the airport's daily operations -- some 1,900 other takeoffs and landings serving nearly 200,000 passengers.
"We don't expect any impact to flight operations of schedules," said Mike Feldman, deputy executive director for LAX facilities.
To reach that goal, airport officials concluded that, except for a limited number of VIP guests and media, trying to accommodate throngs of shuttle spectators would not be practical.
"It would just add to the congestion," Feldman said, adding that airport police will patrol the perimeter with orders to prevent any gawker loitering.
The airport is encouraging spectators to take advantage of off-site vantage points, such as the Imperial Avenue ridgeline south of the airport in El Segundo, where city officials are preparing for a large throng of viewers.
The airport will also take operational steps to miminize the Endeavour's impact on airliners.
While the carrier 747 is transporting Endeavour on its pre-landing aerial tour of Southern California, airspace restrictions will be in place for a 30 mile radius, according to Ian Gregor, FAA spokesman.
However, other aircraft will be allowed within the secure zone if the pilot follows basic procedures that are standard for all commercial flights, and many private flights as well: filing a flight plan, carrying a transponder, and remaining in communication with air traffic control.
What this means is that Endeavour's tour will not prevent airliners from flying through the airspace to and from airports. Passengers may even catch a glimpse.
The shuttle carrier with Endeavour will be landing on LAX 25Right, one of two parallel runways on the airport's south side. On the airport's north side are two more runaways that will not be affected by Endeavour and will remain open to other aircraft even during Endeavour's landing.
As landing time approaches, LAX will temporarily close both southside runways for inspection, Feldman said.
After the carrier touches down and taxis off the runway to the United Airlines hangar at the airport's west end, there will be another runway inspection before the two southside runways reopen. The target is to resume normal operations on the south side runways within 10 to 15 minutes, according to Feldman.
If all goes to plan, midday arrivals and departures will not be delayed, though, as always, the airport recommends airport-bound travelers check with their airlines to confirm schedules.
For airport operations and security, the plan for Endeavour's arrival is not unlike what's routinely done for arrivals of the President aboard Air Force One. But in terms of spectator interest, Endeavour's arrival may be unprecedented.