At new LAX terminal, airplanes will park using light system

The new Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX opens today with an impressive piece of technology. Airplanes will use an advanced visual guiding system – instead of workers with giant glow sticks – to make their way to gates.

Made by a company called Safegate Group, the system guides pilots using lights and a digital screen. The system can even tell pilots if they are off course. It’s supposedly as accurate – or even more accurate – than the old system, which relies on humans to tell the pilots where to park.

As I understand, these systems are more common outside the United States, though we might see more of these in the coming years. I believe part of the reason for the lack of use here, highlighted in this story, is that the marshals are generally union workers with relative job security. Safegate says its systems are used at more than 700 gates in North American, including in Chicago, Las Vegas, Dallas and Houston.

American Airlines is the company’s largest customer in the United States, with 181 gates outfitted with the system, according to company officials.

Here’s a cool, if slightly dark, video of a similar system at Seoul’s major international airport. The point of view is from the cockpit of an A330.

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