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'Intersection in the sky' at MSP airport causes FAA to restrict landings on one runway

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Airplane arrivals on one of the runways at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport are being suspended to reduce the risk of aircraft collisions. The Federal Aviation Administration announced the action late last month.

Two of the airport's three runways have converging flight paths, which the agency calls an "intersection in the sky." The risk of a collision would arise if a plane arriving on Runway 35 had to abort its landing and do a"go around;" it could potentially cross into the departure path of a plane taking off from Runway 30L, KSTP reports.

The diagram below shows Runway 35 at left, and Runway 30L in the center.

The FAA has decided that no aircraft can land on Runway 35 at the same time that planes are taking off from Runway 30L, until the agency can figure out a better flight schedule or change procedures to reduce the risk involved.

What this means for travelers

Runway 35 doesn't handle all that many flights at the airport, but the restriction reduces the maximum number of arrivals from 90 per hour to around 64 per hour, according to the Metropolitan Airports Commission.

The FAA says the airport's current schedule should be able to accomodate the restrictions, according to KSTP, except during the busiest times - weekdays between 5:45 p.m. and 6:45 p.m.

“The arrival demand during this timeframe exceeds the arrival rate that can be safely handled" with the suspension, so there may be flight delays during those times, according to the agency.

In the long term, the impact on flight schedules is still unclear.

Airport noise patterns may change

The other impact of these changes is on noise patterns in the communities closest to the airport. Less activity on Runway 35 will likely decrease aircraft noise in Apple Valley, Burnsville, Bloomington and Eagan, according to MinnPost. But communities that are southeast of the airport could see more overflights and therefore more noise.

In the coming months, the FAA said it will take a closer look at how to adjust flight patterns and schedules to address the collision risk, while also looking at how those changes might affect noise levels in the communities around the airport.

The agency notes there was no specific incident that led to the suspension, but it was done as part of a review of airports nationwide to reduce the risk of collisions involving converging runways.

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