San Francisco grapples with expansion plans

 - May 9, 2008, 7:02 AM

While New York La Guardia Airport (LGA) has been hogging all the airline-delay headlines, San Francisco is equally concerned that its international airport (SFO) isn’t up to the challenges of the near future. The SFO runway reconfiguration program points out that its runways were built more than 50 years ago. Today, 23 percent of all U.S. passenger traffic to Asia originates at SFO. A large part of the capacity problem is that SFO’s parallel Runways 1L/19R-1R/19L and 10L/28R-10R/28L are only 750 ft apart, so they cannot be used for simultaneous ILS operations when cloud ceilings are below 3,500 ft. When ILS approaches are used, airport capacity is cut in half. The result is that on one day out of six, the average flight delay is greater than 40 min.

The runway reconfiguration program identified four objectives: reduce delays, reduce exposure to aircraft noise, accommodate new larger aircraft such as the Airbus A380 and achieve net environmental gains through mitigation. Among the action plans is one plan known as the “A3 Alternative,” which would provide “a fairly large delay reduction” and “result in a minor reduction of the number of people most affected by aircraft noise,” while meeting some of the requirements for new large aircraft. It also would require “the least amount of Bay fill.”

The program’s “F2 Alternative” would fully meet the airport’s four objectives but “would require a large amount of fill in the Bay and the construction costs would be substantial. The airport is committed to the development of an extensive mitigation program for the F2 Alternative.”

Finally, the “Bx Refined Alternative” would provide for dual simultaneous ILS approaches on both sets of parallel runways. FAA standards require 4,300-ft separation between parallel runways for simultaneous ILS operations.