August 20, 2017 - 7:00 am
The Las Vegas skyline constantly changes, but for decades airline pilots could rely on landing at runways 7L/25R and 7R/25L at McCarran International Airport.
But just like many of the Strip’s classic casinos, the names of the airport’s two longest runways are history.
A wrecking ball or implosion wasn’t needed in this case. The change goes to the Earth’s core.
A geographical shift in the planet’s magnetic poles prompted the Federal Aviation Administration and airport officials to redesignate the runways last Wednesday as 8L/26R and 8R/26L, McCarran spokeswoman Christine Crews said.
It might not seem like a big deal on the surface. But pilots and air traffic controllers rely on navigational aids and flight procedures that are based on magnetic headings, which change over time.
The FAA re-evaluates shifts in the poles every five years and renumbers any runways that have a magnetic shift of more than 3 degrees. The lucky number for Las Vegas was 4 degrees.
It’s believed to be the first runway renumbering for McCarran International Airport, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said. Airline pilots soon will notice the update in airport directories and charts.
Airports paint markers on the runway that indicate magnetic north and also true north, which don’t line up because “the Earth’s magnetic field is not that simple,” said Jeffrey Love, a research geophysicist for the U.S. Geological Survey.
In fact, renumbering airport runways is pretty common, Love said, because the Earth’s magnetic field changes by approximately one-tenth of a degree annually.
The slow change is caused by fluid motion in the Earth’s core, which is the source of our magnetic field, Love said. As the fluid changes, so does the magnetic field.
“It’s amazing how something that occurs so far and deep in the Earth’s core could have this type of implication on us,” Love said.
Seattle’s King County International Airport also renumbered its runways last week because magnetic variation, according to the FAA. Changes in the magnetic poles also led to runway changes in recent years at Tampa International in Florida and John Wayne International in Orange County, California.
Still no yield, five years later
Like some commuters living in the southeast end of the valley, Jennie from Las Vegas frequently takes the Airport Connector road off the 215 Beltway as a way to access Russell Road.
Jennie said she believes a “yield” sign should be added to the intersection of Flight Path Avenue and Paradise Road, just before Russell.
“There are two lanes of cars merging into the lane I occupy, sometimes forcing me to a dead stop,” Jennie wrote in an email to the Road Warrior. “The airport told me to talk to the county and brushed this off as a ‘case of personal responsibility,’ or that I should take a different route, but that’s just ignoring the problem.”
A previous Road Warrior, Joe Hawk, tackled this same question from Jennie in 2012, and airport spokeswoman Christine Crews responded with the same answer.
“The problems seem to arise when drivers change lanes without yielding to drivers in the adjacent lane,” Crews said. “A yield sign would not address this issue, as the problem resides with driver awareness and making legal lane changes.”
Crosswalk upgrade planned
Will from Las Vegas noticed that a flashing yellow light was removed from a crosswalk at Swenson Street and Naples Drive near UNLV and wants to know whether Clark County officials were planning any safety improvements.
“Quite frankly, I’m terrified every time I cross the street,” Will said.
Sometime this fall, crews will add overhead flashing lights that can be activated by pedestrians as a way to increase the visibility of this crosswalk, county spokesman Dan Kulin said.
Geotechnical studies underway
Sharon from North Las Vegas wanted to know why orange cones have popped up along Pecos Road and Tropical Parkway.
A geotechnical study and utility work are being completed as part of work for the new Vandenberg Detention Basin, which will help control flooding and erosion in the area, North Las Vegas city spokeswoman Delen Goldberg said.
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Road work ahead
■ The ramp connecting southbound U.S. Highway 95 to northbound Interstate 15 will close from 6 a.m. Monday to January 2018. Crews are building a carpool ramp.
■ Martin Luther King Boulevard will close between Mineral Avenue and Bonanza Road for overnight work from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. Monday and Tuesday nights, and again from 10 p.m. Aug. 25 to 6 a.m. Aug. 28. Crews are demolishing a bridge.
■ U.S. 95 will be restricted between Valley View Boulevard and Rancho Drive through the end of August. Crews are installing foundations for traffic management signs.
■ The carpool lane for southbound U.S. Highway 95 will be closed between Decatur Boulevard and Rancho Drive through mid-September. Crews are erecting traffic management signs.
■ Martin Luther King Boulevard offramp from northbound U.S. Highway 95 will be closed through mid-September. Crews are rebuilding the ramp.
■ Martin Luther King Boulevard onramp to southbound U.S. Highway 95 will be closed through mid-September. Crews are building a carpool ramp.
■ Washington Avenue is restricted between Robin Street and Rancho Drive through Oct. 19. Crews are working on a channel project.
■ Main Street is restricted between Fremont Street and Ogden Avenue through Dec. 20. Crews are demolishing a building.
■ Ninth Street is closed between Carson and Main streets through Dec. 31. Crews are installing water and sewer lines.
■ U.S. Highway 95 will be restricted between Rancho Road and just east of Interstate 15 through January 2018. Crews are building a new flyover ramp for high-occupancy vehicles as part of Project Neon.
■ The Martin Luther King Boulevard onramp to northbound Interstate 15 will be closed through January 2018. Crews are building a carpool ramp.
■ Main Street is restricted between Bonneville Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard through May 2018. Crews are working on a storm drain.
■ Sections of Bonneville Avenue, Charleston Boulevard, Grand Central Parkway and Martin Luther King Boulevard will have closed or disrupted lanes surrounding the Spaghetti Bowl as crews work on Project Neon through July 2018.
■ Eastern Avenue will be restricted between Flamingo Road and Tompkins Avenue through Sept. 29. Crews are doing sewer work.
■ Sky Pointe Drive will be closed to and from the 215 Beltway from 9 p.m. Monday to 5 a.m. Tuesday. Crews are finishing work on the Centennial Bowl freeway interchange.
■ Fort Apache Road is restricted between Sunset and Post roads through Oct. 31. Crews are doing sewer work.
■ Sunset Road is restricted between Fort Apache Road and Ivesdale Street through Oct. 31. Crews are doing sewer work.
■ The 13-mile scenic route at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area will be repaved in one-mile increments through August.
■ Appaloosa Road will be restricted between Wagonwheel Drive and Rawhide Drive through late October. Crews are installing a storm drain.
■ Center Street will be restricted between Burkholder Boulevard and Lake Mead Parkway through June 2018. Crews are making various road improvements.
North Las Vegas
■ Craig Road onramp to northbound Interstate 15 will be closed from 6 p.m. Wednesday to 5 a.m. Thursday. Crews are placing barrier rails and temporary lane striping.
■ Nellis Boulevard will be restricted between Cheyenne Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard from 6 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. weekdays through July 2018. Crews are installing sewer pipes.
The average gasoline price Friday in the Las Vegas Valley was $2.56 per gallon. It was $2.62 in Nevada. The national average of $2.33 is down 2 cents from a week ago, up 7 cents from a month ago and up 19 cents from a year ago.
Las Vegas Review-Journal