Air Travel
10:00 am
Mon February 4, 2013

Down To One Runway, Ft. Lauderdale Airport Will Be Vulnerable To Mishaps And Delays

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International will increase its capacity for yearly takeoffs and landings by more than 50 percent once its new runway goes live 20 months from now.

ONE: That's how many runways the airport will have while a runway expansion project is underway. Analysts say any runway mishap could close the airport down.
ONE: That's how many runways the airport will have while a runway expansion project is underway. Analysts say any runway mishap could close the airport down.
Credit Broward County Aviation

But it's going to be tricky in the meantime. Building the new runway will require closing one of the airport's two existing runways and that will expose flights and travelers to the risk of unforeseen -- and possibly lengthy -- delays.

"That's going to cause chaos there," former commercial pilot Alan Cohn told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. He says a major airport that depends on only one runway could be completely shut down by anything that closes it.

Some real life examples airport spokesman (Greg) Meyer remembers: A plane comes in leaking fuel, an aircraft's engine blows up and leaves parts on the runway, the landing gear collapses. Any of those things could mean a temporary shutdown.

"Many years ago, we had a private jet come in in the middle of the night," remembered Meyer, "and he did not put his landing gear down and came in without landing gear. It tied up the north runway for hours and hours. I think more than a day."

Despite all that, (the airport's director of operations Michael) Nonnemacher said he's not nervous about losing the Plan B runway:

"I think we've all around here gotten used to the fact that this is coming. So I wouldn't say we're nervous," he said. "We're prepared."

What's going on at FLL? They’re building a new east-west runway on the south side of the airport. The new runway, which will parallel Griffin Road, will cost $791 million and increase the airports' yearly takeoff/landing capacity to 425,000.

The path of the new runway crosses one of the old runways, so it will have to be closed, making FLL one of the largest U. S airports with only one runway. There is a bigger one in San Diego with the same limitation and that's where local airport officials went to learn how to plan for emergencies and cope with possible delays.

Here is an animator's idea of how the new runway will take shape at the airport: