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Runway-Safety Awareness Effort Targets McCarran Hot Spot

May 20, 2015

The FAA’s runway safety program is spotlighting a tricky area at Las Vegas' McCarran International Airport (LAS), especially for transient pilots who are not familiar with the airfield’s configuration.

Click to view the LAS Hot Spot Four poster (PDF)The FAA, NBAA and the airport are working together to raise awareness of Hot Spot 4 at LAS, which is where Runway 7L and Runway 1L intersect. The runways share a common holding position just north of Runway 7L’s threshold.

Aircraft cleared to depart Runway 1L must first cross Runway 7L. If pilots are not vigilant, they can easily turn onto Runway 7L instead of continuing on to their assigned runway. Adding to the confusion is that the runways are often used at the same time, meaning pilots cleared to Runway 1L may see aircraft in front of them departing via Runway 7L. Since hold lines are not depicted on airport diagrams, pilots have little advance warning of the unusual configuration.

"It is a complex area,” says Raimo Vaher, who runs an aviation department for a Las Vegas-based company. “The orientation of where you’re holding short compared to where [Runway 1L] begins leads to some of the confusion. It’s critical to verify runway alignment when using this departure."

Vaher has been at LAS for 16 years, and said the hot spot has been an issue for much of that time. Pilots, tenant representatives, airport officials and the FAA have discussed the issue as part of general meetings, and are working to spread the word to raise pilot awareness.

Part of this educational effort is a poster recently released by FAA illustrating the issue. The poster encourages pilots heading southbound from LAS’s West Ramp for departure to “anticipate single or multiple runway crossings,” verify that they are cleared to cross runways per air traffic control instructions and verify that their assigned runway matches the aircraft’s heading indicators.

View the LAS Hot Spot Four poster. (PDF)

“McCarran is diligently working to reduce the number of incursions,” said Vaher, who noted none of his pilots have been involved in an incident at Hot Spot Four. "That was one of the drivers behind the poster.”

Among McCarran’s actions: enhancing Runway 1L’s hold-short markings to help call attention to the proximity of the hold line to the runway.

Vaher says that in addition to alerting tenants, the poster is being distributed to the airport's FBOs to help alert transient pilots to the airfield configuration. Air carriers operating at LAS also will receive the information.