LAX ATADS data, 1991-2014:
Scrollable aerial view at bing.com. (Click to open in a new window).
Airport Narrative (Overview & History)
LAX is the only airport to rank among the top five U.S. airports for both passenger and cargo volume. The airport is managed by the Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) agency, which also manages the two smaller airports at Van Nuys [KVNY] and Ontario [KONT].
The first airport hangar was constructed in 1929 on farmland where wheat, barley and lima beans had been the main crops. The Theme Building was opened in 1961; looking like a flying saucer on four legs, this iconic structure (like Seattle’s Space Needle, of the same era), symbolized the arrival of jet air travel as a new way of life for Americans.
It was a marketing miracle; a promise of unlimited growth and opportunity and freedom to go anywhere, at any time. It looked great in black-and-white.
The development in the LA Basin has since been astounding, and has created many conflicts between aviation and local residents. Those conflicts have not been helped by governmental authorities; there is a long history where the commercial interests of aviation are favored over the quality of living for local residents.
In 2014, KLAX was averaging 1,744 operations per day. Although the level of air traffic using KLAX has declined substantially (down 19%, see the table above), the airspace design to accommodate the KLAX flow has huge repercussions on residents throughout the LA Basin. FAA’s approach to designing airspace is essentially to first accommodate commercial flows, then accommodate fixed-wing GA traffic vertically separated under those commercial flows, and expect helicopters to take care of themselves on the bottom. The result is effectively a compression of those helicopters into low-level flying through residential neighborhoods where millions live. The land and the climate here are beautiful; the noise and privacy intrusion of these helicopters substantially diminishes quality of life. Similarly, the repetitive noise impacts of concentrated flight patterns are making it impossible for many to live comfortably.
So, KLAX is a great airport for the commerce and connection it provides to so many people. But, it has enormous impacts, and we all rely on LAWA and FAA to fully manage these impacts. Most often, both LAWA and FAA are failing to serve the local residents.