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Chuck: NY area airports to get safety lights on runways

New runway light systems are on the way to JKF, LaGuardia and Newark airports, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer announced yesterday.

Congress approved $36 million in funding for the Federal Aviation Authority to install Runway Status Lights, red lights that can be turned on to tell approaching pilots to wait until it's safe to pass, in 2007. However, the FAA didn't have full clearance to install them at the time.

With several planes skidding off runways and even colliding into each other at various airports in recent years -- including a near-collision at JFK in January and a Southwest plane hitting an American Airlines plane at LaGuardia in December 2014 -- Schumer has been increasing pressure on the FAA to get the job done, his office said.

"Runway Status Lights are an essential, new technology meant to prevent airplane collisions and crashes on the ground," the senator said in a statement. "New York's airspace is the busiest in the nation, and that's why it's essential that our airports have the tools they need to stay safe."

Lights will be operational at LaGuardia this summer, at Newark this fall, and at JFK next winter, according to Schumer.

The lights turn on automatically when there is traffic on a runway, so they require no input from controllers. They have been installed at nine other airports around the country so far, and Schumer said they have seen distinct improvements in safety on the pavement.

For example, at Dallas Fort Worth Airport, runway incursions dropped 70% in the two years since the lights were installed there.

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