FAA Funds Airfield Improvement Projects In Wake Of Incursions

American Airlines Boeing 777-200 at JFK
Credit: EQRoy/Alamy Stock Photo

The U.S. FAA has awarded $100 million across 12 airports for airfield configuration projects aimed at preventing runway incursions, including $13.4 million to Las Vegas Reid International Airport (LAS) and $24 million to San Diego International Airport (SAN).

News of the funding comes as the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) convenes a May 23 forum to discuss the “recent increase in the number of the most serious incursions,” according to the board. “The NTSB has opened investigations into six incursion events since just the start of the year.” 

One high-profile incident occurred in January at New York John F. Kennedy International Airport, when an American Airlines Boeing 777-200 crossed onto an active runway while taxiing for takeoff, causing a Delta Air Lines 737-900ER to abort takeoff.

“The closest point between the two aircraft was about 1,400 feet and occurred as [the Delta 737] decelerated past taxiway K4 and [the American 777] exited the runway at taxiway J,” the NTSB said in its preliminary report on the Jan. 13 incursion.

In announcing the funding awarded to airports for incursion prevention projects, FAA Associate Administrator Shannetta Griffin says airfields can have “complex layouts that can create confusion for pilots and other airport users,” adding: “This funding will reconfigure complex taxiway and runway intersections to help prevent incursions and enhance the safety of the National Airspace System.”

The FAA says the projects are aimed at reconfiguring taxiways that “may cause confusion,” as well constructing new taxiways “to provide more flexibility on the airfield.” 

The $100 million is drawn from the agency’s Airport Improvement Program and money available via the U.S. infrastructure law passed by Congress in 2021, as well as other sources, according to the FAA. 

The $13.4 million awarded to LAS will be used to reconfigure four taxiways “to meet safety standards,” according to an FAA statement. Additionally, two LAS runways (Runway 8L/26R and Runway 1L/19R) will be shifted, and runway status lights–which alert pilots when it is not safe to enter a runway–will be installed. 

SAN will use the $24 million “to construct a new taxiway, eliminating the need for aircraft to back-taxi on the runway,” the FAA says.

What's more, Miami International Airport will spend $6 million to shift a taxiway and “fix the intersection of two other taxiways,” according to the agency. 

Arizona’s Tucson International Airport will receive $33.1 million to construct a new taxiway and shift and rebuild a runway to move it farther away from a parallel runway. 

California’s Mineta San Jose International Airport will spend $10.8 million to build a new taxiway, providing more direct access to aircraft hangars. 

NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy says she wants to “spur meaningful, immediate action on the areas where we’re stalled” regarding preventing runway incursions.

Aaron Karp

Aaron Karp is a Contributing Editor to the Aviation Week Network.