SFO's 5th runway? A Proposal

SFO is my hometown airport, and, like the many of us who have flown there, the runway configuration is far from ideal. Thanks to advances in technology, the effects of this configuration have been reduced, as SFO is a master at perfectly timed parallel take offs, and landings.

The still prominent issue with this configuration, is that when weather becomes poor, and visability is reduced, parallel landings can no longer occur on 28L and 28R, the primary landing runways. As a result, the airport gets plagued with delays in upwards of 4 hours or so, as only one aircraft can land at a time.

For years, the idea of adding runways to SFO has been something that has never left the proposal stage. There are various reasons for this but, among them are the environmental impacts of land fill required to support a new runway, (something that’s very important to conservationists in this area, as at one point, the Bay Area was planned to be filled in.)

So, my proposal, taking all mentioned above into consideration includes: a new 7,300 ft runway, separated far enough from 28L to allow for parallel landings in poor conditions. It would also allow for new regular procedures, such as using the new runway in tandem with 28R for landings, freeing 28L for departures. The new runway would use in upwards of 80% of existing land, and would see the private jet parking, along with the overnight stands/hangar offset to the north to accommodate the new runway.

Current Config:

Proposed Config:


How does the new setup fix the issue you described. “Poor conditions/weather makes parallel landing currently impossible.” To me you just added another runway highly susceptible to this problem. Perhaps I’m not seeing something?


The Issue is that the current 28R and 28L are too close together during poor weather to allow for parallel landings, has to do with legal separation of aircraft.

With this, you have a new runway 28R that is far enough apart from the old 28L so that the weather no longer becomes an issue.

The current 28R would become 28C under the proposal, and wouldn’t be used in that scenario.


You should never want to have an entire available runway in a non functioning state. Not to mention the fact that this construction project would mean shutting down major taxiway arteries. Just like in sailing where the wind is the game, no airport layout can be perfect because there is always a variable that can’t be controlled (the wind § weather). As for the legal issue surrounding aircraft proximity, would it not be easier to just move the runways further apart. This proposal seems a little unnecessary too based on the fact that it would only marginally reduce SFO’s delay index, as many more factors than weather will reduce the flow the aircraft at a major field like SFO. I would love to continue the conversation feel free to respond, I’m no expert so any other opinions and info are all the more better.


That could be feasible if they removed some of the GA over there.
Extra flights might create some noise abatement issues on approach, but good idea.
By the way, click on the link below and you can see a live10-minute delay of flights landing in SFO area----click on “Live Flight Tracking” for a treat.


Could be done, but you end up with same construction problems more or less, not to mention that you would be down a runway for several months.

This already happens, as either of the 28’s or 19’s are down during said circumstance.[quote=“wooden3D, post:4, topic:126235”]
it would only marginally reduce SFO’s delay index, as many more factors than weather will reduce the flow the aircraft at a major field like SFO.

Very true, however weather seems to be the prominent issue, and taking steps to improve upon that would greatly help out, not to mention that an additional runway can increase the total number of ops per hour by anywhere from 50 - to several hundred. I am no expert, and I appreciate the feedback, this was a little experiment i conducted with some free time.


I can say I disagree, if we were to be using 28L and the “new” 28R, I don’t think that this would work out very well, I think a runway like Schipol has done, away from the airport, and able to handle heavie’s which I believe are priorities to the airport.

Funnily enough, I’m about to board an Emirates flight to SFO. 😂


I’d like to politely disagree with you. While your idea is very well-expressed there are some factors that wouldn’t be good.

1 - Delays. The construction of this new runway would cause even more delays and congestion. Just take a look at the current construction at LaGuardia and runway improvements at JFK…

2 - Short runway. Even in bad weather, such as SFO’s frequent morning dense fog, there still might not be able to have parallel landings if the weather is bad enough. Plus, your proposed runway wouldn’t be long enough for large jets, including the A380 that comes to SFO for numerous airlines.

By the way, asking people who are just aviation enthusiasts (most of us on this forum are) probably wouldn’t be the best place to get the best answers for your idea. Sure, there’s some experts here like @Maxmustang who could probably give you more detail, but if you want better reasoning I’d suggest reaching out to people who have experience in this field.


Off the top of my head, I believe you still need 4,300 foot separation between parallel centrelines for simultaneous independent ILS approaches.

I don’t think your third runway positioning would meet this minimum requirement, still looks too close (considering the current 28L and 28R are only 750-800 feet apart from memory)

Short on time so won’t give a long argument my simple argument is

A) Taxiways-no taxiways are wide enough at the 01L/C/R side, resulting in a very long taxi

B)28L and 28R (new) are not far enough apart for parallel ILS approaches

C) Pretty sure you can’t have 3 simultaneous parallel approaches, due to issues with go arounds

Hmm, I’m really not sure about that…

I think the minimum separation for parallel approaches in instrument conditions is something like 4,300ft so I am not sure your proposal actually addresses the issue of allowing parallel approaches in poor viz.


Yeah, I think someone already mentioned it earlier. But that’s regarding horizontal separation. Do you happen to know if vertical separation counts for anything, as the thresholds are displaced by several thousand feet, so the approach paths are quite different.

Very interesting proposal. For anyone that is curious, the OP is referencing this section and the rules that follow:

So… in theory the OP’s proposed runway separates 28L from 28R (figuring the existing R would become 28C) by more than 2500ft. Good topic!


Curious, do IFATC follow these regs? Obviously at LAX you don’t get much traffic and CDG and SFO are never opened, but theoretically do you?

When I control I try to but no IFATC does not follow this specifically. I spent nearly two years of my life to learn the craft and apply stuff like this. We have a good balance of realism and being realistic with varieties of skill levels.


Obviously 2 years of training isn’t feasible for IFATC 😂, thanks for the quick reply

Thanks for the supplemental information Tyler!

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That’s the west plan (used 80% of the time) covered, but what about the south east plan where they depart from 10L/C/R? Does the displacement distance allow that?

Why is it a problem if it can’t land heavies?

Its a actually a very good idea for the GA/Small Private traffic that comes into SFO.

If you made the runway a little bit thinner, it might makes sense?

I support this idea as it makes it a good opportunity for new pilots to get a feel of the large airport without having ATC concerned of little training Cessna’s causing an accident downing an entire runway.

I completely support this idea, as it actually makes sense and has a plausible use.

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