Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Stoplights at O'Hare. It's about time.

The folks at the Federal Aviation Administration--the geniuses who gave the green light to the ultra-extravagant and dangerous O'Hare Airport expansion--have come up with a way to help prevent the greatest threat to aviation safety: runway collisions.

They'll be installing stop and go lights at the intersections of runways and taxiways at O'Hare and 19 other busy airports. Stop lights; who would have thought of that? Especially when the FAA itself keeps repeating that the biggest aviation safety problem is on-ground collisions. Especially when the worst aviation disaster (excluding 9-11) was the collision of two packed airplanes on the island of Tenerife in the Canary Islands, in which 583 people were killed. That puts the FAA about--what?--80 or 90 years behind traffic engineers.

So, despite the real on-ground problems, the FAA goes ahead and approves the massive O'Hare rebuilding in which more taxiing planes than ever will have to cross as many as two or more active parallel runways to get to and from the terminal gates. This is thanks to the new unprecedented six-parallel runway configuration, made necessary by trying to squeeze a 21st century airport into a small, 7,000-acre facility designed in the 1950s.

Think of all the stop lights at O'Hare. Think of how long it will then take to get to your gate. Good luck, fliers.

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