San Francisco International Airport is closing 2 of its 4 runways this summer, right at the height of vacation season, in order to complete some federally mandated safety upgrades. Good luck getting anywhere on time from May to September.

The closures come after the same upgrades — which involve lengthening the runways on either end to provide more of a buffer zone for planes that undershoot or overrun them — were already completed on two of the runways, 28L and 28R, as the San Mateo County Times reports. The other two runways, 1R and 1L, known as the primary departure strips for domestic and Europe-bound flights, will close May 17th to mid-September, reducing the number of planes that can land at peak hours, in perfect conditions, by 15 percent.

A spokesman for SFO says carefully, "There is the possibility of delays during this period."

The first two runways were successfully lengthened to fit new FAA standards, but...

SFO's two departure strips are shorter than the arrival paths and cannot be sufficiently lengthened to meet Federal Aviation Administration requirements. So the airport will install "engineered materials arresting systems" at both ends of the runways. Instead of pavement the ground will consist of a material designed to collapse under the weight of an airplane, slowing its momentum.

Also, because of the closure, flight paths will be greatly impacted, and virtually all flights are going to have to take off over Serramonte/Daly City, upsetting those who live there for several months.

SFO says they're doing everything they can to reduce the possibility of delays, but come now. It's an airport. In fog season. We should all expect the worst.

In brighter news, the airport will soon have a swell new control tower that looks like a big torch.

[San Mateo County Times]
[SF Business Times]