Thursday, March 11, 2021

COVID Anniversary

We're coming up on one full year of the new COVID "normal" at LAX. The vaccine is becoming available, and a few of our controllers have already received theirs. The airlines have yet to experience a strong growth in traffic, although there are hopes for this summer. Nonetheless, the TSA is gearing up for a spring break surge, even though travel restrictions remain in place around much of the world. So far, the New Year's weekend was the busiest we've been since last March:

Since then, our daily traffic count is holding steady at around a thousand operations per day:

In other news, the Boeing 737 MAX has returned to LAX. So far, I've personally seen Maxes from AeroMexico, COPA, United, and Alaska. American, Southwest, and Air Canada are all beginning to bring their Maxes back on line as well, so we should see them sometime later this year. 

Construction continues unabated. As I write, one of the runways on the south side is closed for a couple of months for concrete repair:


A recent view of our ground radar; everything in red is closed


Meanwhile, we have two new north-south taxiways on the west side of the MSC. There are aircraft parking at the MSC now, but so far they are simply parking there; passenger operations have yet to begin. The MSC ramp control has gone live, relieving the control tower of responsibility for the gates along the west side of the TBIT, along with Taxiways K & L. They have a much better view of these, as I got to see for myself a while back when we briefly had to operate out of their facility one night:

The view from the MSC ramp tower, looking to the east. The two arcs of green lights mark Taxiway K-2, which connects Taxiways K and L. The gates along the west side of the TBIT are all unoccupied; on the far left is Gate 130; center of the photo is Gate 148, then moving right 150 and 152. The control tower is marked by the pair of red lights beyond Gate 148.


Time for some more recent construction photos:

Terminal 3

People mover station next to the TBIT

Terminal 4-5 connector

Terminal 5-6 connector


People mover extending eastwards from the control tower

This is the street view outside the control tower

Despite all this talk about construction and other minutiae, this is an airport, so I'll conclude with a sequence of airplane shots: 



  1. What, exactly, is a people mover?

    1. The Automated People Mover is going to be a rubber-tired train system, sort of like an above-ground subway. Each car will have a capacity of fifty people; each train will have up to four cars. At full capacity, there will be nine trains in operation. The system will extend for over two miles (4 km) from the LAX terminal complex to parking garages, train station, and rental car facility. Once it's operational, there should be a great reduction in vehicle traffic in the terminal complex, since all the parking and rental car shuttles, as well as many of the hotel shuttles, will be no longer needed.

  2. Good to see you posting again. Two questions. Does the new MSC ramp tower just have duplicates of all the ground control instruments of the main tower, or could it handle arrivals/departures in a pinch? Second, in your picture of construction on terminal 3, it looks like they are rebuilding in the previous footprint including all the way out to taxiway Delta. Isn't the plan to remove the finger terminals from the North side to be able to increase the spacing between the North runways? I was under the impression this was why the North end of TBIT wasn't rebuilt.

    1. The MSC ramp tower has different, although similar, ground traffic displays to what we have in the control tower. They don't have displays directly connected to the air traffic radar system, however they do have a lot of the same information. We tried running live traffic from there one evening, but without any of the phone or computer connections, it was a pretty limited operation.

      My understanding, which may not be completely up to date, is that the plan to increase the space between the north side runways has been scrapped due to political opposition. I can't speak to the TBIT thing -- I just don't know.

  3. Always enjoy the blog, Captain Vector. Just curious - what necessitated operating from the MSC Ramp Tower for an evening?

    1. We needed to do a deep cleaning of the tower cab after there was a confirmed case of a controller with Covid. We did it at two in the morning one weekend, when things get about as quiet as they ever do at LAX. Turns out it was a one-time thing; subsequent cleanings were managed without displacing the controllers from the tower cab.