Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The New LAX

Los Angeles needs a new airport. There's very little new about that statement, to be sure, but the fact remains that Los Angeles International is fast running out of room to do what it needs to do in serving the 2nd largest metropolitan area in the United States. So we can concentrate on the uniqueness of "LAX," let's get the other airports in the area out of the way right up front.

Ontario, Burbank, Orange County and Long Beach are "satellites" that serve their immediate area with domestic and some international service to Mexico and Canada. None of them are big enough for much of anything else so the locals are accustomed to driving up to 70 miles to get to LAX where nonstops to Hawaii, Asia, Australia or Europe are readily available. These four have little hope of becoming another Gatwick or Orly for Los Angeles in the way those airports compliment Heathrow at London and Charles de Gaulle at Paris, respectively.

The terminal complex at LAX has been redesigned at least three times from the original concept, including the Tom Bradley International Terminal, the Delta Flight Center and various gate reconfigurations to accommodate the 777 and A380. Another redesign of over one billion dollars is underway to carry the airport for the next 50 years or so. What next? Let's say there will be and the 747s, 777s and A380s of the present day will all be long gone, outliving their usefulness by contemporary standards. Will airports even look or operate the same by then? Before this turns in to a commercial piece on Star Trek, let's go with the technology in hand and figure out what to do with LAX or figure out where to put its replacement.

Palmdale has been bandied about on numerous occasions. It is in the high desert with plenty of land around it that nobody seems much interested in. It is also a good 50 miles north of L.A. past the San Fernando Valley and right next to Edwards AFB, the reason so many seem enamored of the area. Edwards is an active military base that serves as protector of Los Angeles in case of attack, a shuttle landing site and an airplane graveyard. In short, though historically significant to American aviation (Chuck Yeager's breakthrough happened here) on paper it seems, it doesn't have much to do but has a ton of land and plenty of potential to turn in to the kind of commercial facility Los Angeles needs.

The government won't give it up without a fight, the locals don't want to drive there and no airline will support any move to pay for the kind of facility they constantly say they need but is not their responsibility to build. I don't live in the area so all of this is easy and academic to me. I'll put up with Los Angeles until a better solution comes along - some thought it might be El Toro but that hasn't happened either. I say do what the Chinese did in Hong Kong: Spare no expense, go with Edwards, build a freeway and high speed rail network to support it and let the future, unborn tax-payers finish paying for something that was always a part of their lives and therefore no big deal.

Gotta go.


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