A quick primer on LAX airfield driving

Can you guess who has the right of way here?

Can you guess who has the right of way here? Photos by your blogger.

What does it take to drive on the service roads of Los Angeles International Airport?

I recently took a tour of the airport with Los Angeles World Airports police chief Patrick Gannon, who taught me some of the tricks of the trade. After he took the job in late 2012, Gannon had to take eight hours of airport driving training. “You learn what to pay attention to,” he said.

The overarching rule of the airfield is that planes have the right of way. All of the time. That makes a lot of sense, but, of course, airplanes don’t have turn signals. So drivers need to essentially predict what a plane will do. I’m guessing, with time, that becomes relatively easy. Do any of my readers regularly drive on an airfield? Am I right?

Another interesting is there are different speed limits for North/South traffic than there are for East/West traffic. According to this guide, the limits are as follows:

The speed limit on north-south service roads is 30 mph; east-west service roads is 20 mph; and terminal ramp areas and taxi lanes is 10 mph.

Airport police can give citations to drivers who break LAX’s rules. If drivers receive too many citations, they can have their privileges revoked. In the most serious cases, such as “Failure to yield to emergency vehicles displaying flashing red lights,” drivers can lose their badges immediately, according to this document.

Gannon said airport police gauge speed either by eyesight or by pacing the cars.

“It keeps people from driving like a bat out of hell out here,” Gannon said.

Here’s another interesting rule from LAX’s guidelines:

Reversing and driving backwards is only permitted if existing conditions make it impossible to drive forward. When reversing or driving backwards, it is the driver’s responsibility to ensure that the path is free of obstacles. If the vision of the driver of the motor vehicle / ground equipment is obstructed to the rear for any reason, a guide person shall assist the driver.

Airfield 1

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  • Noah

    Driving on the airfield in Omaha, Nebraska, I can personally say that these guidelines are different. I work in the cargo area, and while we have to watch for planes and give them the right of way, driving backwards is permitted, at least in Omaha.