New Runway Safety Lights Installed at LAX

New technology that alerts pilots to runway hazards was unveiled today at Los Angeles International Airport.

Runway Status Lights is a $7 million warning system uses red lights embedded in the pavement to tell pilots if it is unsafe to take off, enter or cross a runway.

"With the installation of Runway Status Lights, LAX has established itself ahead of the curve when it comes to passenger safety," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said during a news conference at the airport.

Wes Timmons, the Federal Aviation Authority's director of runway safety, called it "a critical safety enhancement for LAX. This system has proven that it is highly effective in preventing potentially dangerous runway incidents from occurring."

The lights are connected to the airport's ground radar system. The lights turn red if the ground radar detects a potential collision between two planes, or between a plane and motor vehicle.

Clearance to cross or enter a runway must be given by air traffic control. When the red lights go off, the pilot or the driver of the motor vehicle must verify the clearance before proceeding.

The warning system is installed on eight LAX taxiways and one runway that were deemed most at-risk for a collision.


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Los Angeles World Airports, which operates LAX, took on the entire cost of the system. The FAA installed it and will maintain it.

Since the Board of Airport Commissioners decided to pay for the warning system with airport revenue rather than wait for federal money, the signals were installed almost three years earlier than they would have been.

At Dallas-Fort Worth and San Diego's Lindbergh Field, Runway Status Lights have prevented accidents and reduced runway incursions by as much as 70 percent, according to the FAA.

LAX is only the third airport in the country to get the warning system, and is the first to have the lights installed on multiple runways.

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